Hyderabad: Gurugram-based Premas Biotech, which developed a virus-like particle (VLP), is looking to find a solution to prevent Covid through an oral vaccine, in partnership and collaboration with an Israeli company, Oramed Pharmaceuticals.
The company’s VLP technology has attracted a lot of attention and they are in talks with several companies.
The company has in the past worked on coronavirus antigens in animals and thus had a prior experience that spike proteins do mutate. The company started focusing on SARS CoV-2 Membrane (M) and Envelope (E) proteins, which are not known to mutate. Then the idea of the oral pill for the Covid vaccine emerged from the ongoing Oral Insulin pill with Oramed.
Prabuddha Kundu, the co-founder and managing director, Premas Biotech, told Telangana Today, “Premas Biotech has been working with Oramed for the last 7-8 years on oral insulin. We have been involved in this since the conceptual stage and have given over a hundred kilo of material and Oramed is carrying out the phase 3 trials in the US. The oral insulin could be introduced in early 2024.”
“The original idea that – what if we take out the insulin part of the pill and substitute the VLP there. This was initially achieved by formulation and overcoming serious technological hurdles of three protein lyophilization and developed a prototype. Research data from a pig study in Israel further boosted our confidence that oral VLP technology will work,” he added.
Inspired by the research evidence, both Premas and Oramed decided to form a joint venture (JV) firm called Oravax and registered the entity in the US. The JV firm is keen to go for phase I trial in any country that is ready to initiate the trial.
Talking about the advantages, he said, “The pill (a prescription drug) is going to be room temperature stable, and it does not require medical staff to administer it. There is very good animal data, and the JV firm is in talks with countries in Europe, America and Asia for allowing phase I trials. Many countries have approached to be a part of the oral vaccine development,”
“We had a good interaction with the drug regulator for our biologics. The dossier is being made now and in the coming weeks, as more data gets available, we will talk to more countries globally, including India,” he noted.
Recalling the initial journey, he said, “When we set up Premas in 2005, we started working on platforms such as D-Crypt platform, which is an engineered yeast to make difficult-to-express proteins (DTE-Ps). This platform has been highly successful for membrane proteins.”
“Furthermore, Premas Biotech was one of the first companies to apply the Lean system to biology from 2009 onwards with a goal to make a significant impact on deliveries and COGs (cost of goods) and bring benefit to our customers. In our journey so far, we have worked with top global pharma and biotech companies. Amongst other platforms, we have made a platform called C-Qwence, an antibody library derived from the Indian genome for the first time, by clearing all due ethical permissions,” he added.
Recently, the company also made a platform called Axtex-4D, which allows it to tackle human tumors in three dimensions. Overall, with all these platforms, the goal is to reduce the time for discovery and development (D-Crypt and C-Qwence) and to be tested on the Axtex-4D platform, which validates the potential therapeutic. The 3-D cell culture enables rapid, combinatorial screens for targeted oncology and immuno-oncology drug therapeutic candidates. The company has two collaborations in this space. This year, the company is looking forward to initiating two more collaborations.
Premas Biotech continues to believe the D-Crypt platform has more potential in the vaccine area and continues to invest in its R&D to fine-tune for complex roles. This platform has delivered on the most difficult target receptor for pain, which holds significance in neuroscience.
Kundu added, “We are the first company to make a full-length map receptor. We worked on this for the last three years. The company is actively looking at collaborations in pain alleviation either through developing antibodies against it or small molecules. In the next 2-3 years, we will have at least two collaborations in this space.”
Gearing up infrastructure
The company operates its facility in IMT-Manesar, Gurugram District of Haryana, and there are plans to set up a second facility soon. It is exploring options in Manesar as well as other attractive locations across India, including Hyderabad.
“We have close ties with Hyderabad. We have worked with a large biotech company in the city on several new technologies and are working with a couple of startups and recently signed up with another company to develop an antibody. We have deep links in the city and are actively considering certain parts of the country for our second facility, and Hyderabad is one of the major contenders,” he added.
The company has initiated talks with private equity and venture capital firms to meet expansion needs. Premas will need significant investments and is lining up efforts in that direction to raise money over the next 5-6 months, informed Kundu.
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