Emergex Vaccines Holding Limited, a biotechnology company pioneering a new approach to synthetic vaccine development in the field of infectious diseases, today announced that it has signed an R&D agreement with the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) in Singapore to develop a fully synthetic vaccine against human viruses that cause Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD). Emergex and IMCB will collaborate closely to develop the new vaccine, combining their personnel, specialist knowledge and expertise.

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
Image/shawn c

IMCB is a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore’s lead government agency spearheading mission-oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. A*STAR bridges the gap between academia and industry and, through collaboration, brings science and technology to benefit the economy and society.

Storme Moore-Thornicroft, Co-Founder and COO of Emergex, commented: “We are looking forward to collaborating with IMCB on this important indication. Our novel approach to vaccine development provides a practical and efficient solution to prevent disease. Compared to traditional methods, our technology enables development in a shorter time and at a fraction of the cost. Our vaccines also benefit from microneedle skin patch technology, improving vaccine administration and uptake. Our vaccines are 100% synthetic so do not require refrigeration, enabling easier transportation – especially important in infrastructurally-challenged parts of the world.”

The research collaboration is led by Associate Professor Justin Chu, Joint Principal Investigator at IMCB, whose research interests are in positive-strand RNA viruses and vaccine development.

Prof Hong Wanjin, Executive Director of IMCB, commented: “Over recent years, the virulence of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease has increased substantially and resulted in a number of infant deaths. An urgent need therefore exists to develop an effective vaccine that can provide a practical solution and protect those most at risk.”

As part of the agreement, Emergex will use its technological expertise to help develop a cross reactive vaccine against the most common enteroviruses known to cause HFMD, including coxsackieviruses and enterovirus 71 (EV71) which will be tested in murine models at IMCB.

HFMD is most common in children under the age of 5. It starts with a fever, sore throat and reduced appetite and leads to painful sores on the hands, feet, and in the mouth. While it usually resolves spontaneously, infection with some enteroviruses such as EV71 can induce diverse neurological complications including brainstem encephalitis. This can cause neurogenic pulmonary hemorrhage/edema and lead to death.

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Several large outbreaks of HFMD caused by EV71 have occurred in the Asia-Pacific region since 1997. In 1998, a major epidemic of EV71 in Taiwan caused 1.5 million infections, 405 with severe neurological complications, and 78 child deaths. More than 7 million HFMD cases and 2,457 deaths were reported in China during EV71 epidemics between 2008 and 2012. Recently, EV71 epidemics have been reported in the USA and Europe including the Netherlands, France, Norway, the UK, Hungary, and Greece.