In today’s scenario, there are a lot of factors involved in the emergence of new infectious diseases or the re-emergence of ‘old’ ones, with Covid-19 being the latest example. And according to Baseimmune – a biotech startup, the current estimates indicate that about 70 per cent of the world’s population is at high risk for contracting fatal infectious diseases. This is where Baseimmune wants to make a difference.
Baseimmune raises funding
In a recent development, the London-based biotech startup that is combining big data and biological expertise to generate variant-proof vaccines has raised £685K (approx €803K) in a fresh round of funding.
The round was led by the European university VC fund, Creator Fund, and includes Mike Watson, ex-president of Moderna’s infectious disease spin-out with the support of Vaccitech and Oxford University. Maki VC and Rockmount Seed Investments also participated in this round.
Baseimmune aims to build revolutionary vaccines
Baseimmune is a discovery-phase biotech startup that is focused on antigen discovery and vaccine development. The company’s technology utilises pathogen and epidemiology big data combined with biological expertise for antigen discovery, which it claims is one of the major roadblocks in vaccine development.
The raised capital will enable Baseimmune to further develop its platform and start pre-clinical development in the lab.
Dr. Josh Blight, Chief Scientific Officer & co-founder of Baseimmune, explains, “Pathogens are a bit like dartboards and the vaccine the dart. The problem is that the dartboard keeps moving, sometimes we manage to hit them whilst others we can never hit in time. We are seeing this now with reduced vaccine efficacy against emerging COVID variants.”
Blight adds, “At Baseimmune, we’re changing this by designing vaccines that know where the dartboard will be next. Through our innovative vaccine design platform. We harness sophisticated computation to globally monitor pathogen evolution and pathogenicity to generate a single vaccine that protects against both current and future unknown emergence strains while targeting critical regions within the pathogen to generate a protective and future-proof vaccine. We call these vaccines with plasticity. Imagine only needing one flu shot instead of one every year, that’s vaccines with plasticity.”
The biotech startup is working towards building revolutionary vaccines and has five antigens in various stages of development. These include a candidate vaccine for human infectious disease in collaboration with Vaccitech (the Oxford company that helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine) and a revolutionary Malaria vaccine in development with Imperial College London.
Besides, it has also initiated the preclinical development of a number of its own vaccine candidates including a universal COVID vaccine and a veterinary vaccine against African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV).
The company claims that its platform focuses on antigen creation that challenges pathogens, unlike failed traditional approaches. Traditional antigen design is simple, making it relatively easy for pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2 (COVID), to mutate.
Hence, Baseimmune uses big data, high-performance computing, and machine learning to design more complex antigens for better vaccines that can protect a wider range of strains and variants of a given pathogen today, as well as in the future. Its software generates vaccine antigens associated with agricultural and human diseases, such as Malaria and COVID.
Prof. Adrian Hill – Director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, says, “The antigen component of a vaccine is critical in teaching the body to recognise and defend against disease. If it doesn’t teach the body about new variants when you are vaccinated then it’s possible it may not protect against future variants. Baseimmune’s approach of using AI to build future unknown variants right into the antigen provides an exciting opportunity to generate future proof vaccines against highly variable pathogens.”
The team behind Baseimmune has generated a number of vaccines, one of which has now been licensed to Vaccitech Ltd for human trials.
The startup was founded in 2019 by Ariane C. Gomes (CEO), Phillip Kemlo (CTO), and Joshua Blight (CSO). Founders Joshua and Ariane are both PhDs and Postdocs in vaccines from Jenner Institute in Oxford. While Phillip is a self-taught computer scientist. And, together they’ve created Baseimmune to build a machine learning platform for antigen design.