Intercell hopeful for future of needle-free vaccine

By Natalie Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Private equity firm, Immune system, Vaccination

Intercell is seeking new partnerships for its struggling needle-free patch system for delivering vaccines.

The company took several blows after its technology failed multiple trials last year, most notably for its traveler’s diarrhea vaccine patch​ developed with GSK, which was cut when it fell at late-stage trial hurdles.

But the Austria-based firm says it has learned from previous mistakes and will persevere with the platform, which is undergoing trials at its acquired business Iomai Corporation in Gettysburg, US.

It now has several key deals in the pipeline, and is welcoming new business.

CEO Thomas Lingelbach told in-PharmaTechnologist: “We have a lot of opportunities for partnerships. Companies are very interested in the patch because it doesn’t require cold chain transportation like with other vaccines. The product can also be self-administered.”

He added that Intercell is looking into three main partnership areas; allergy, oncology, and DNA vaccines.

“We have some companies interested, and we are in discussions with two big pharma and three little biotech for different activities ranging from exclusive to those looking to outsource,”​ he said.

“We are working with a very large allergy company, another large pharma about cancer drug application, as well as with smaller companies on enhancing immune response to DNA vaccines.

“The platform could also be interesting for diabetes therapy, and though we aren’t conducting research in the field yet, but will possibly look at it in the future.

“But of course, we will be looking into other areas but we would look to get into partnership stage with existing technologies first.”

Troubles

Lingelbach said of past troubles that stumbling blocks can be expected because the product is so unique.

“There is no vaccine patch available in the world,” ​said Lingelbach. “They use the platform already in some other fields, such as in nicotine and hormone replacement therapy, where the technology is established, but not in the world of immunisation.”

The firm now sees failed trials as a learning curve for future developments.

“Unfortunately in trials such as our traveler’s diarrhea one, we found that it failed to pass Phase III because it did not have efficacy on all sorts of diarrhea,” ​he added.

“However,what we did see was 60% efficacy against LT toxins (Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli) which established the patch as a suitable route of immunization for future potential vaccine candidates.”

Intercell is now conducting its second ever human trial with the technology, through their partnership with GSK for the development of a flu vaccine.

Private equity

Intercell makes no secret of the fact it has struggled financially after its stock prices took an 89% nose dive. The company now has a market value of $125m (€92m)
Several options are being considered, however the frontrunner for a cash injection at present looks to be from a private equity firm.

Lingelbach said: “We are in active discussions with more than one private equity firm and we are not ready yet we have not come to deal terms or financial agreements with interested parties, but the good thing is that we have interested parties.

“We have also made it very clear that there is a certain limitation to how much a private equity can put in. Right now we have 48 to 49m shares and another 16m out standing.

“That’s 64m in total and if someone takes the 16m it’s a 25% share of the company.“

Related topics: Drug Delivery, Delivery technologies

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