National team to advance innovative biopolymer particle-based platform technology

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A national team of experts will advance an innovative biopolymer particle-based platform technology to develop vaccine candidates to protect against biowarfare threats, including Q Fever, tularaemia, and melioidosis.

Health Security Systems Australia (HSSA) is engaging with scientific experts from across Australia, led by Griffith University, including the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory in Geelong, the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the University of Western Australia, and industry partner BioCina, an Australian-based global biologics Contract Development Manufacturing Organisation (CDMO).

The two-year funding will advance the project, which ultimately aims to establish sovereign capability in Australia to rapidly develop and manufacture vaccines against biothreats and emerging infectious diseases at an industrial scale.

This project was identified from an HSSA national call for collaborative proposals in 2022, with funding support from Defence through the Next Generation Technologies Fund.

The call focused on key priority themes, including the need for vaccine products or platform technologies for infectious disease threats, which aligns with HSSA’s mission to develop medical countermeasures that protect military and civilian personnel against chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) threats, emerging infectious diseases and pandemics.

The technology developed at Griffith University uses a platform approach, using engineered bacterial cells to assemble biopolymer particles coated in an immunogenic antigen rapidly.

This unique, cost-effective and scalable biomanufacturing process has developed multiple precision-engineered vaccine candidates that are effective against pathogens of interest.

The developed platform technology can provide rapid vaccine design and manufacture and overcome critical bottlenecks of existing vaccine technologies regarding the speed of response, manufacturability, functionality, and stability.

Professor Bernd Rehm, director of the Centre for Cell Factories and Biopolymers at Griffith University’s Institute for Drug Discovery, said, “HSSA’s investment in this project, and the facilitation of a national collaboration, is key to addressing an unmet need for protection against biowarfare threats and infectious diseases in Australia.”

“There are currently no vaccines approved for melioidosis and tularaemia, and only one approved vaccine for Q Fever,” said Professor Rehm.

“The development and potential manufacture of an innovative vaccine candidate could be made possible by the collaborative network of experts involved in this project.”

Mark W. Womack, CEO of BioCina, said, “BioCina is honoured to be the manufacturing partner for this innovative project, aimed at providing greater sovereign health protection in Australia.”

HSSA’s General Manager, Dr Felicia Pradera, said: “This technology is a perfect fit for the Medical Countermeasures portfolio. A novel vaccine platform technology that protects against biowarfare agents with high efficacy and safety, as well as overcoming current technology constraints including stability and cold chain dependency, and can be used in a rapid response pipeline against emerging threats, is a key capability in ensuring Australia’s health security.

“The Medical countermeasures program has been an enduring priority theme of Defence’s investment in game-changing technologies, and health security is also increasingly being acknowledged as a key component of national security,” added Dr Pradera.