NanoBio Nabs $6M from Gates Foundation for Nasal Spray Vaccine

Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor — 

NanoBio, the Ann Arbor, MI-based developer of new vaccine formulations made to be more potent and easy to deliver, has snapped up a $6 million grant from the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The money will help fund development of the first nasal spray vaccine against one of the most common bugs that causes lung diseases like pneumonia in infants.

The company, a University of Michigan spinoff founded in 2000, secured the support to study its experimental vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This deal allows NanoBio, a for-profit company, to retain the commercial rights to this vaccine in wealthy countries, while the foundation will have access to the vaccine in the developing world.

No one has yet developed a vaccine for RSV infections, and it’s clearly one of the bugs that public health officials would love to tamp down around the world. Almost all infants get this contagious infection at least once by the age of two or three, and it causes an estimated 900,000 hospitalizations every year in the U.S. and Europe for a host of lung complications like bronchiolitis and pneumonia. The latter disease is one of the leading killers of children in sub-Saharan Africa. AstraZeneca’s MedImmune unit made a fortune—$1.23 billion in 2009 to be exact—through selling palivizumab (Synagis) as an antibody treatment for RSV infections, although its nowhere near as practical as a vaccine would be in poor countries, where it would be too expensive. But that robust market makes it clear that if NanoBio can develop a vaccine, it will have an opportunity to make money in wealthy parts of the world, and to make an even bigger impact around the world with help from the Gates Foundation.

“We believe our program holds tremendous promise for addressing a number of global health challenges,” said James R. Baker, Jr., NanoBio’s Founder & CEO, in a statement.

NanoBio made waves back in mid-September, when it reported some eye-opening results of a nasal spray vaccine it has developed for seasonal flu. The study of 199 healthy adults found that NanoBio’s NB-1008, as a nasal spray, was safe and capable of triggering an immune response against the flu virus in both the bloodstream and the mucosal membranes like those that line the nose, where people usually first encounter pathogens. This two-pronged form of immunity hasn’t been shown before with conventional flu vaccines that are injected into a muscle, or with the currently available nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist).

The NanoBio approach essentially took a commercially available flu vaccine and combined … Next Page »

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