By Matthew Willett
BD Technologies' start-up Synergy Vaccines Inc. is developing formulations designed to improve the efficacy of vaccines for life-threatening diseases such as HIV and cancer.
The Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based incubation project collaborates with its parent company, Becton, Dickinson and Co., for the development of advanced vaccine delivery technologies.
And with collaborations with unnamed partners under its belt for a melanoma vaccine and an HIV vaccine, Synergy CEO Richard Mueller told BioWorld Today the company is aiming at drug development now and in the future.
Its technology platform, SynerVax, uses a cage-like natural human protein to encapsulate antigens, producing a subunit vaccine with greater efficacy. Mueller said his company focuses on vaccine adjuvants, not vaccines.
"Synergy's business plan is that Synergy will out-license rights to various vaccines and the SynerVax technology to combine with other proprietary vaccines from other companies," Mueller said. "In the future we'll look to in-license antigens of our own to make proprietary vaccines."
The SynerVax technology is widely applicable, he added.
"It is alfa-2-macroglobulin, a natural body protein found in plasma, and it's a cage-like structure," he said. "Our technology utilizes this to provide a delivery vehicle inside the body. We conjugate the antigen with the alfa-2-mac and use that as the vaccine."
The SynerVax formulation allows for several benefits in the resultant vaccine.
"In some cases we're able to lower the dose by a 1,000-fold. Typically, we use extremely small doses," Mueller said. "We're able to use delivery systems that are micro-devices, and that eliminates painful injection, and for the vaccine itself, we believe from tests with a hepatitis vaccine, that makes a single-dose injection possible."
Founded in 1998 on technology from a Duke University researcher, privately owned Synergy remains a founder-funded incubation project for Becton, Dickinson. Mueller said that arrangement carries several benefits.
"It's a very powerful notion, the development association we have with Becton, Dickinson. Beyond the two collaborations, we have offices and labs at the BD facility. Synergy is operated on a virtual corporation model, and the advantage of the system is that we can focus virtually 100 percent of our time and effort and resources on developing our science," he said. "We don't have to spend lots of time worrying about our facility and where our resources are going to come from. If something is available we try to use that rather than try to invent it or come up with it ourselves."
Currently, in addition to the melanoma and HIV vaccine projects, Synergy is applying the SynerVax technology to other areas.
"We're also collaborating with another group to develop advanced laboratory and home diagnostic kits using the SynerVax system in order to enhance the sensitivity, specificity and time to results," he said.
BD Technologies said it has four start-ups residing within its facility, offering them laboratory space, offices and collaboration opportunities. n