Prokarium to Develop First Vaccine to Protect Against Sexually Transmitted and Insect-Borne Zika Infections

  • Posted on 13 September, 2016

Keele, UK, 13th September 2016 / Prokarium today announced the start of its programme to develop an oral vaccine against Zika virus infection. Using the Company’s know-how in synthetic biology, the new vaccine will be active against both modes of Zika transmission - insect-borne (antibody-mediated) and sexually transmitted (mucosal and cell-mediated) infections – the first to do so.

Zika is spreading fast. According to the World Health Organisation, 67 countries and territories have reported evidence of mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission since 20151. Sexual transmission also complicates the spread of the disease in areas where people are being bitten by mosquitoes such as Brazil and Colombia2. In fact, Zika’s ability to spread through sexual contact means that all countries are at risk, whether Zika mosquitoes are found there or not. A vaccine that protects against both transmission routes is the only way to offer the maximum safeguard and stop the spread.

Prokarium’s CEO Ted Fjällman commented: “We use a safe bacterium, which is swallowed and then enters into the immune cells of the gut lining to produce vaccine there. The oral delivery means that we kick-start mucosal immunity, the body’s first defence against infection in e.g. the gut, nose or the vaginal tract. The production of vaccine from within immune cells means that our approach causes few or zero side effects, while crucially initiating cellular immunity, which is very important for combatting viruses like Zika.”

Steve Chatfield, Chairman of Prokarium, added, “The Small Business Research Initiative innovation procurement contract is from the UK Department of Health and the UK Vaccine Network, administered by Innovate UK. It will help Prokarium and our partner, Public Health England, to develop an orally delivered Zika vaccine. This places Prokarium at centre-stage of a few selected organisations that will help the UK to build an independent rapid response capability against emerging epidemics.”

Prokarium’s Zika project is a one-year programme starting 1st October 2016 and aims to show pre-clinically that the vaccine can protect against vaginal Zika challenge. If successful, it is anticipated that a phase 1 clinical trial could be started in 2018. The project is a part of a £2M funding received for developing three vaccines against plague (anti-bioterror), bacterial diarrhoea and Zika.

1. WHO Zika situation report, 18th August 2016.

2. Zika Virus Disease in Colombia — Preliminary Report.

About Prokarium

Prokarium is a privately owned, UK-based biotechnology company with a vision to create the best platform for oral delivery of vaccines. The company’s proprietary synthetic biology platform Vaxonella® enables vaccines to be taken orally, and then to be made from inside the body’s own immune cells, triggering all arms of immunity with little or no side effects and at lower costs than injectable vaccines.

Prokarium has a dual business model: Development of in-house oral vaccines and out-licensing of its Vaxonella platform. Currently the focus is on preventing Chlamydia, Clostridium difficile and exacerbations of COPD & asthma. Prokarium is funded by Flerie Invest AB, it has research collaborations with biopharmaceutical companies and is currently raising a Series B investment to take its core vaccines into the clinic.



Ted Fjällman, CEO
+44 (0)7811 367 729

Media Relations, Sciad Communications

Richard Anderson, Managing Partner
+44 (0)7973 950376