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Intravacc: Innovating Vaccines to Reduce Human Diseases

Dr Jan Groen | Intravacc
Dr Jan Groen | Intravacc

A Ten-Year Anniversary

With the multiplying growth and complexity of the world’s population, there is an endless variety of opportunities for infectious agents to emerge and evolve into devastating outbreaks and pandemics, which also depicts a new era of vaccines.

For instance, the 2020 pandemic, COVID-19, was a wake-up call for the world. In attempts to eradicate such a deadly disease, the speed at which pharmaceutical companies developed the vaccines is a lifesaving marvel in medical history.

Vaccine development to cure diseases is more important than ever. No matter how they are formulated or delivered, they will remain the most effective tool for preventing disease and improving public health in the years to come.

Intravacc, a global development and manufacturing organization of innovative vaccines plays a leading role against infectious diseases. Under the leadership of CEO Dr. Jan Groen, Intravacc has developed several vaccine platforms to reduce time and costs for the development of new vaccines. These platforms are:

  • OMV-Vaccine Technology (OM-VaccT)
  • Cell-Vaccine Technology (CE-VaccT)
  • Conjugation Vaccine Technology (CO-VaccT)
  • coli-Vaccine Technology (EC-VaccT)

These platforms are built upon Intravacc’s extensive knowledge that is obtained through the company’s long history. They operate on the goal of using the already developed technique and assays “as is” for new vaccines with some small optimization studies. The OM-VaccT platform is one of the emerging vaccine platforms that can be used for the development of variety of vaccines including bacterial, viral, parasitic’ antimicrobial resistance and cancer vaccines.

At Intravacc’s 10-year anniversary this year, let’s convey some of its success and future plans.

Intravacc In Brief

Intravacc is a leading global contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) for infectious diseases and therapeutic vaccines. As an established independent CDMO with many years of experience in the development and optimization of vaccines for infectious diseases, therapeutic vaccines and vaccine technologies, Intravacc has transferred its technology related to vaccines against polio, measles, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and influenza around the world.

Around 30% of childhood disease vaccines are based on Intravacc’s technology. The Company offers a wide range of expertise and services for independent vaccine development, from concept to phase I/II clinical studies, for customers around the world. Intravacc continues to capitalize on the critical global trends in healthcare: the ever-growing need for prevention and intervention for infectious diseases and cancer.

The company’s innovative four vaccine platforms are part of their vaccine CDMO capabilities and are well-positioned to address the unmet needs in the vaccine market which is currently estimated at $37 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.5% to $55 billion by 2027. Since the inception of Intravacc in 2013, the company signed five licensing agreements with large pharma companies and in the meantime three out of the five license agreements are now approved vaccines and on the Asian market.

The company’s head office is located in the Utrecht Science Park in Bilthoven, The Netherlands, and has state-of-the-art laboratories and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) production facilities. Intravacc B.V. is a limited liability company incorporated under Dutch law. Intravacc is a state-holding company since 1 January 2021, under the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sports (VWS).

Mission, Vision, and Values

Intravacc’s vision is to reduce human disease through best-in-class CDMO services for innovative vaccines and immune therapies. The mission is to partner with pharma and biotech, governmental agencies, NGOs and private entities to help reduce the burden of disease. Intravacc’s core values are excellence, customer, quality and result orientation.

Operations Behind Vaccine Development

Intravacc has the knowledge and expertise to guide vaccine projects through the whole vaccine development chain right up to Phase II clinical trials and can customize processes based on our partners’ needs, by focusing specifically on our partners’ products, such as formulation, process development, assays, and GMP.

The Company’s business strategy is to leverage knowledge and technological expertise for the benefit of financially rewarding projects. Intravacc’s ultimate objective is to generate sustainable revenue streams from R&D services and, where possible, from licensing and royalty agreements.

As a CDMO Intravacc is helping many customers to develop their vaccine processes. These may be start-ups, university spin-offs or larger pharmaceutical companies. The Company has already out-licensed some of its own vaccines to pharmaceutical companies, such as BCHT and CDBIO (both in China); collaborating on the development of a gonorrhea vaccine with Therapyx, and a flu vaccine with Versatope. In 2022, Intravacc was active in three markets: the US, Asia, and Europe.

Customers can take a license on the Company’s proprietary and knowhow-based vaccine platforms. The company has 200 scientific publications and executed 25 pre-clinical studies and many human studies supporting the efficacy, safety and value of these four vaccine platforms.

Focusing on Specific Disease Areas

Intravacc’s own product pipeline is focused on disease areas where there are no vaccines available or vaccines with limited protection. For example, currently, the company is developing a quattro-valent vaccine for Hand Food and Mouth Disease (HFMD). HFMD is a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children caused by a family of viruses called Enteroviruses. This infection is mainly endemic in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, but in the US the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates an additional 10-15 million symptomatic cases of HFMD each year in the United States.

Avacc 10 based on the OM-VaccT plaform is a non-infectious subunit nose spray vaccine for COVID-19. This vaccine tackles the problem where it begins, in the nose. Animals vaccinated with Avacc 10 demonstrated a significant reduction in virus shedding and transmission after being challenged with live SARS-CoV-2 virus. Also, problems like needle phobia among adults and young children ranging from 35% to 50% can be overcome with a nose spray vaccine.

Seeking a Competitive Edge

Vaccines cannot only beat life-threatening infectious diseases but also other common diseases like neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. Intravacc’s innovative vaccine development platforms and vaccine contract development and manufacturing capabilities are well-positioned to address the unmet needs in the vaccine and immune therapy market.

Together with the long-term expert experience of the company’s scientists in vaccine development, it can deliver superior quality to its customers, from lead compound all the way to phase II clinical trials.

Intravacc distinguishes itself from other companies by its stellar track record in high-quality vaccine development processes, broad experience with technology transfer, and successful multi-million licensing deals. In addition, the company has three proprietary vaccine platforms for the development & manufacturing projects of its customers.

Technological Operations

Intravacc’s lead vaccine technology platform is its Outer Membrane Vesicle (OMV) technology. OMV can be considered an emerging platform allowing the company to develop non-infectious subunit vaccines. Besides traditional viral and bacterial disease vaccines, OMVs can also be used as adjuvants, cancer immune therapy agents, drug delivery vehicles, and anti-bacterial adhesion agents are also well-suited for future pandemics.

R&D Efforts at Present

The company is currently focusing its R&D efforts on mucosal immunization routes for respiratory diseases to tackle the problem where it begins. It is also working on the so-called silent pandemic known as “Antimicrobiol Resistance (AMR)” bacteria.

In the past Intravacc’s team developed the first AMR vaccine Hib and today they are working on Gonorrhea, a bacterial infection high on the WHO AMR list.

Overcoming Challenges

One of the challenges that Intravacc experiences are creating awareness around the company and its OMV vaccine platform to attract new customers. Due to its strong scientific background, the company has been successful in obtaining fully funded grants since its inception in 2013.

In 2022 the company secured over €15 million in grant funding for their OM-VaccT platform. Promoting the awarded grants through press releases and social media channels is helping business development to bring in new commercial contracts promoting the visibility and reputation of Intravacc within the vaccine market space.

Words of Wisdom

Jan’s advice to entrepreneurs who want to move into the vaccine business is: “Make sure you have access to a proprietary vaccine platform technology that can easily be implemented in other countries to increase the footprint of this platform, but more importantly to focus on an unmet clinical need targeting major disease issues like AMR and cancer.”

Envisioning 2023 and Beyond

During 2023, Intravacc set out how it is refocusing its R&D organization which involves two areas: “First, where we are one of the leading companies with an OM-VaccT platform for both prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine applications and second our focus on mucosal delivery of vaccines to induce a non-invasive powerful protective immune response to combat many diseases,” emphasizes Jan.

“Although early on, we have built up a lot of experience and successfully completed several pre-clinical and phase I trials in these areas, and in the coming year, we will continue to receive new data from these two key areas within our company,” he concludes.

Sale of Intravacc

In 2019 the privatization of Intravacc was initiated by the Ministry of Health, Sport & Wellness. Due to the COVID pandemic, the sale of the company was postponed. In April 2022 the Minister of Health decided to re-start the sales process and in May 2023 it formally started.

This is a great step forward for the Company and all its employees. Once a new owner has been secured, Intravacc can fast-track its current strategy to become one of the leading CDMOs within the vaccine industry.

CEO’s Journey- In His Own Words

“As a young scientist, I started my career in the veterinary vaccine industry with a focus on pig and poultry vaccines. Several years later, I chose to work for an organization that focuses on human vaccines. After that I started working as a virologist in one of the most prominent centers in the Netherlands, which I did for nine years. In 2003, I moved to the USD with my family, where I worked for several diagnostic companies. In 2020 I started working for Intravacc. The company is based in Bilthoven, the Netherlands, the place where I started my career 30 years ago.

I am a medical microbiologist by training, but I also consider myself to be an entrepreneur. I have been married for more than 30 years and we now have three adult children.

As a young child, I was always interested in nature and biology. Although initially I graduated with a BSc degree in botany, later I decided to change to immunology and microbiology. Since 1996, I have a Ph.D. degree in medical microbiology from Erasmus University in Rotterdan. Currently, I am on the board of a few international companies:Angle Plc in the UK. and Novigenix SA in Switzerland.

Intravacc was a former government-owned Vaccine Research Institute under the umbrella of the Dutch Ministry of Health. As of January 1, 2021, Intravacc became a private entity with the Dutch State as the sole shareholder. In 2023, the shareholder has initiated the process to sell Intravacc. As we near the end of the transition from a research organization to a CDMO, the company is well on track to break even in the coming years. In 2022, more than € 27 million in new business contracts were signed and has secured long-term government until 2025.

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