News: Industry, Innovation, News, SA

Pneumococcal vaccine in clinical trials

GPN Vaccines’ universal pneumococcal vaccine, Gamma-PN, developed with the help of Microscopy Australia’s University of Adelaide Facility, is now in clinical trials.

Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus, is found in the respiratory tract of most people and can cause life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, septicaemia, meningitis, and ear infections. It is responsible for more than one million deaths each year and is the leading cause of mortality from infectious disease in children under five, cementing it’s place on the World Health Organization’s list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens”.

Currently available pneumococcal vaccines only protect against 23 types of the bacterium, whereas Gamma-PN has been designed to protect against all 100 known types, as well as any future types that may emerge. Along with this, current pneumococcal vaccines are complex and expensive to produce, which has limited their use in low and middle-income countries. Gamma-PN on the other hand is cheap and easy to manufacture, and also works better without an adjuvant, meaning it does not contain aluminium.

Gamma-PN was developed by GPN vaccines in collaboration with researchers at the University of Adelaide who relied on Microscopy Australia’s facilities and expertise, including transmission and scanning electron microscopes. Read more about the microscopy here. Dr Lauren Giorgio, Chief Operating Officer of GPN Vaccines said “The success we’ve had to date has been underpinned by access to world-class research, development, and manufacturing facilities in Adelaide”.

The trial commenced in January 2023 to assess the vaccine in 50 to 69 year olds at a leading clinical trial centre in Adelaide and has been supported by the South Australian Government’s Research Commercialisation Startup Fund and private investors from both Australia and overseas.

The Honourable Dr Susan Close MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science elaborated: “Developing a more effective vaccine against Streptococcus pneumoniae is a global health priority. The South Australian Government is proud to have supported GPN Vaccines in its early stages, with $1 million granted through the Research and Innovation Fund, and it’s wonderful to see this biotech startup reach the point of clinical trials.  Our state boasts world-leading health and medical researchers and infrastructure – translating this strength into widespread health and economic outcomes is a priority of this government.”

Colour-enhanced Scanning electron micrograph of whole inactivated pneumococci used in the vaccine. Imaged at Microscopy Australia's University of Adelaide facility.

March 2, 2023