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ORAVAX ORAL SHIGELLA VACCINE PHASE I TRIALS

Executive Summary

ORAVAX ORAL SHIGELLA VACCINE PHASE I TRIALS will begin in January, the oral vaccine developer recently & announced. The follow-on trials are expected to begin in 1994 in Chile, which has a high incidence of the intestinal bacterial infection. Oral shigelia vaccine development is the focus of a five-year, $3.5 mil. collaborative R&D agreement signed by OraVax with the University of Maryland at Baltimore Center for Vaccine Development. The vaccine will consist of genetically engineered shigella as a live vector. This vector can carry genes coding for vaccine proteins for other bacteria, namely the Helicobacter pylori and C. difficile bacteria, the privately-held Cambridge, Mass.-based company said. The UMB deal gives OraVax worldwide rights to the agreement's vaccines and genetic engineering methods, as well as shigella-related intellectual property rights for the live vector system. OraVax said it will explore development of oral vaccines for people with predisposition to H. pylori infections, which, according to the firm, cause most peptic ulcers and have been tied to the development of certain stomach cancers. On Nov. 15, the company announced that it will develop a diagnostic test for peptic ulcers induced by H. pylori bacteria using the cagA gene. OraVax is licensing exclusive, worldwide rights to the cagA gene from Vanderbilt University, where the gene was first isolated, cloned and sequenced. Vanderbilt researchers Murali Tummuru, PhD, Martin Blaser, MD, and Timothy Cover, PhD, recently have shown that cagA antibodies are found in virtually 100% of patients with H. pylori-induced peptic ulcers, OraVax explained. Blaser is on the OraVax board of scientific advisors. On Nov. 22, OraVax announced that it had appointed Stephen Atkinson, 48, to director of licensing and technology development. Atkinson created and ran Harvard Medical School's Office of Technology Licensing and Industry-Sponsored Research. Atkinson also designed and developed Medical Science Partners, Harvard Med School's $36 mil. venture fund that has provided seed money for 13 new biotech companies since 1989, including OraVax ("The Pink Sheet" July 30, 1990, T&G-8). MSP is in the process of raising an additional $20 mil. Keith Ehrlich recently came on board at OraVax as VP of finance and administration and chief financial officer. Ehrlich joined from Vertex, where, he was treasurer and director of finance.
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