A New Pharmaceutical Model
Older people are living longer. This is not just a feature of Western society but also increasingly affects developing countries. The trend has changed from the historical situation, when increase in life expectancy was driven by falling death rates in childhood and infancy due to improvements in hygiene and healhtcare (including antibiotics and vaccines). Since the 1960s, two important new trends have developed. These are: increased life-expectancy of persons over 65 years of age, set against a falling birth rate that is insufficient (in Europe at least) to maintain population. These developments pose an increasing burden on successive generations with a decrease in the number of working people per retiree. Progressively less income is available to health and pension systems. Governments and payors generally are naturally concerned about the spiralling costs of health care expenditure. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are focused on making the most profitable drugs they can. Many of these new medicines are expensive (e.g. antibodies), and applicable only to stratified subgroups of patients: i.e. not designed to address the wider needs of a burgeoning ageing population, and without regard to the societal need for sustainable healthcare systems. Meanwhile we are beset by global epidemics of new infectious diseases, such as dengue and zika virus pandemics, with new pandemics expected to emerge. Any measures to deal with these new epidemics are meanwhile competing for funds from general healtcare budgets, with the pressing needs of an ageing population. More cost-effective solutions are needed for chronic as well as infectious diseases, and pharmaceutical companies, regulators and governments need to adapt to these inexorable trends. Vaccines will be an important part of that solution.
What the world needs now...
Excivion was formed in response to the need to develop affordable solutions to the present and looming health crises of a changing world. Excivion's founder and CEO, Peter Laing PhD, is an experienced executive and non-executive director of biotechnology companies having worked as R&D Director and Chief Operating Officer of plc companies, and having provided advice to venture capital and institutioal investors, plcs and NGOs in the field of biotechnology. He has developed collaborations with several of the world's top pharma and biotech companies that have resulted in products of global significance. He is a winner of the UKTI (Innovate UK) Biotech Entrepreneur of the Year award. The name 'Excivion" was coined to connote the need to take an objective and strategic view of these problems - requiring 'experience', 'incisiveness' and 'vision': the art of 'seeing the wood for the trees'.
Getting ahead of the curve
While vaccines are a compelling solution to emerging infectious disease threats, the problems of creating vaccines that are both safe and effective for a new generation of pathogens are significant and will require the greatest ingenuity and creativity of vaccine developers. Special care is needed in the design of new flavivirus vaccines in order to ensure that they do not enhance susceptibility to infection in some instances (e.g. against related viruses not represented in the vaccine). There is great scope for Excivion to advance its rational vaccine design approach to the growing field of flavivirus vaccines.
Flaviviruses are a close-knit family, with distinct resemblances among select family members such as dengue and Zika. While exposure to one serotype of dengue can foster more-severe infection with a second serotype, it has further been suggested that this 'predisposing' effect can also extend to Zika virus, such that the unusually rapid spread of Zika may have been faciliated by the established dengue epidemic, which rendered dengue-exposed subjects more prone to Zika virus infection. There is much scope therefore for the interaction of flaviviruses in terms of their epidemic spread, that may influence the emergence and spread of new pandemics. New vaccine designs are required to contend with this epidemic 'cross-fertilisation' (sic) of different arboviral pathogens. Excivion's vaccine design platform is ahead of the curve in this respect, designed to confer protection without having off-target enhancing effects.
Vaccines for chronic diseases and cancer
The role of vaccines in preventing cancer is well established by the papilloma virus vaccines against genital infection and cervical cancer. These vaccines work against the infectious agent, rather than the cancer. However, researchers have known for decades that in model systems it is possible to cure cancer by 'therapeutic vaccination', where a vaccine against an antigen of the cancer is the target of vaccination. Historically, it has proven more difficult in clinical studies to achieve comparable results in man. However the credibility of immune-based therapies in cancer has been dramatically demonstrated by antibody based therapies that deal with the 'tolerogenic' environment in tumours (checkpoint inhibitors). These drugs unleash latent immune responses that are otherwise thwarted by suppressive molecules expressed in the tumour microenvironment (e.g. PD1, PDL1), and responsible for the transmission of negative signals to immune cells. Since vaccines can likewise unleash latent immune responses, vaccines are now seen to represent a very attractive approach to the treatment (as well as prevention) of cancer. Excivion will exploit its experience in rational vaccine design to develop intellectual property and products in the fields of chronic diseases and cancer.