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Evaxion and Afrigen Biologics to develop mRNA vaccine for gonorrhoea

The collaboration will utilise Evaxion’s EDEN-discovered antigen targets.

Evaxion has announced that it has entered into a collaboration with Afrigen Biologics to develop an mRNA prophylactic vaccine against gonorrhoea.

As part of the agreement, the Cape Town-based biotechnology company will utilise Evaxion’s EDEN-discovered gonorrhoea targets.

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted disease that stems from a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae and elevates the susceptibility to HIV.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year, there are 82 million new gonorrhoea infections.

The condition disproportionately affects women in low- and middle-income countries, and it can cause several complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infertility and infant blindness.

The partnership will explore the expression and biological activity of antigens discovered via EDEN in an mRNA format.

The partners will negotiate a subsequent agreement for clinical development and commercialisation, as well as an opportunity to involve additional partners.

Evaxion’s chief scientific officer, Birgitte Rønø, said that the collaboration offers “a unique opportunity” to deliver the company’s EDEN-identified antigens using mRNA and “accelerates clinical validation” of the platform.

Evaxion’s EDEN is a proprietary platform that uses artificial intelligence to identify antigens that will trigger a robust and highly protective immune response against all bacterial infectious diseases.

Previously, EDEN-discovered antigens have demonstrated high levels of protection in preclinical studies.

“This partnership has the potential to address a serious unmet global medical need against the pathogen for which no vaccine currently exists,” added Rønø.

Afrigen’s managing director, Professor Petro Terblanche, commented: “This innovative exciting partnership enables the mRNA technology platform established at Afrigen through the support of the WHO and the Medicines Patent Pool to expand the pipeline of products to be developed for the mRNA programme.”

He said that the collaboration also “supports the sustainability of manufacturing capacity being created in the low- or middle-income country partners”.