Lumen Bioscience, a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing biologic drugs for highly prevalent diseases, today announced the publication of data demonstrating a needle-free, spirulina-produced recombinant vaccine that protects against malaria. The research, conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington, was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Partner Journals (NPJ) Vaccines.
Lumen Bioscience pioneered genetic engineering methods to highly express bioactive proteins in spirulina. The published research details how this platform was used to express a malaria protein antigen that can be delivered intranasally and later boosted with a simple oral booster. Treated mice demonstrate protection against subsequent malaria challenge. The low cost and scalability of Lumen’s production platform, coupled with easy, needle-free administration, could greatly expand real-world access to malaria vaccines.
“We are excited to be working with Lumen on this potentially groundbreaking application of their unique technology platform,” said senior author Sean Murphy, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of Washington and Clinical Investigator at the Seattle Malaria Clinical Trials Center. “Tremendous progress has been made in the field of recombinant malaria vaccines, but real-world access remains challenging due to infrastructure and supply chain limitations and to cost sensitivity in most regions where malaria is endemic. This new approach may help overcome those concerns.”
A free, online version of the publication – “Needle-free, spirulina-produced Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite vaccination provides sterile protection against pre-erythrocytic malaria in mice” – is available on NPJ Vaccines here. (DOI: 10.1038/s41541-022-00534-5) The NIH has renewed funding for the research program as a Phase 2 STTR. The renewed funding will help to move the vaccine closer to human clinical trials.
“The use of edible spirulina as a malaria vaccine platform offers a new approach to vaccine development at scales, costs, and delivery that could greatly improve access compared with traditional vaccination approaches,” said Jim Roberts, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Lumen Bioscience. “This research adds to the growing body of data supporting the development of mucosal vaccines to address prevalent worldwide diseases.”
Spirulina, a photosynthetic cyanobacterium, is a highly nutritious food and the only microorganism commercially farmed worldwide as a food. Lumen Bioscience’s pioneering biomanufacturing platform allows for the stable expression of protein therapeutics in spirulina with productivities and potencies tens to hundreds of fold higher than achievable in other food-based platforms (“Development of spirulina for the manufacture and oral delivery of protein therapeutics.” Nature Biotechnology 40, 956–964 (2022). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35314813/).
The Lumen/UW malaria vaccine program—funded by the NIH—comprises an important part of Lumen’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) portfolio alongside Lumen’s other global health programs funded by BARDA, CARB-X, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Lumen’s pipeline is primarily focused on commercial targets, including collaborations with Novo Nordisk (in obesity and cardiometabolic disease) and Kyorin Pharmaceuticals (specific targets not yet disclosed).