50 million children fall ill with serious diarrhea disease every year. For 700 000 of them, the infection is fatal, and it is children under the age of five that are most vulnerable to the disease. The bacteria Enterotoxigenic E.Coli (ETEC) is responsible for large portion of these cases. In addition, ETEC causes up to 60% of the diarrhoea that affects travellers to developing countries.
ETEC is a variant of the E.coli-bacteria, and the source is mainly infected and unclean food and water. According to World Health Organization (WHO), up to 400 million people are infected by diarrhea diseases each year and resulting in approximately 700 000 deaths annually.
Developing vaccine towards ETEC
This could be prevented. If children are vaccinated against diarrhea causing pathogens, it can prevent death and often disabilities associated with disease-related malnutrition. Vaccination could help the majority of them to cope with the infection, if it came to them early enough.
Researchers from all over the world have been trying to develop an effective vaccine since the 1980s, but now researches at Uni Research and University of Bergen might have found an answer. The researchers registered the idea of a new vaccine towards ETEC to BTO in 2011, and since then we have worked in close collaboration with the researchers in developing the vaccine and business development.
Policy of fair access
The vaccine has two target groups: 1) Children in developing countries and 2) Travellers all over the world travelling to ETEC-endemic regions.
For majority of travellers from western countries, having access to antibiotics and hospital treatment, diarrhea is just an uncomfortable episode. For children in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), it might be a matter of life or death or long-lasting developmental consequences.
The University of Bergen has adopted a policy of fair access to essential products in LMICs. Developing a vaccine protecting children in such locations was the foundation for developing this project. The policy will ensure that children in developing countries will benefit from the vaccine if it is marketed.
– The project is exciting; we look forward to further results of the research. I hope that we can contribute to save many children in developing countries. This has great potential, says Malgorzata Barczyk, Business Developer at BTO, who has been following up the commercialization part of the project.
In Bergen, the three researches Pål Puntervoll, Kurt Hanevik, Halvor Sommerfelt and their teams are working with this project. The project focus is on both the development of vaccine candidates and on establishing clinical models for testing the vaccine when it is ready.
BTO are now working to find an industrial partner who will participate in further research and development of the vaccine, and later in clinical testing, or would license the technology from us.
The current development is promising and the research team estimate that a functional vaccine candidate will be ready in 2018 or the early months of 2019.
To obtain wide coverage against pathogens causing diarrhoea our vaccine can be used along existing vaccines targeting other variants of E.coli or Cholera.
As for now, the project is financed by: NFR, Globvac (The research council of Norway), PATH (part of the Melinda and Bill Gates foundation) and Gates Foundation. The Foundations funded a large portion of basic research in the work for this vaccine. This support is a quality stamp on the project.
Currently the patent application is filed for the national phase. We are seeking for protection in the largest paying markets, which is the US, Europe and China.