(Released 11 February 2019) Princeton, NJ – Soligenix, Inc. (Nasdaq: SNGX) (Soligenix or the Company), a late-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing products to treat rare diseases where there is an unmet medical need, announced today the allowance of a new United States (US) patent protecting its ricin toxin vaccine, RiVax®. The patent, titled “Multivalent Stable Vaccine Composition and Methods of making same”, supports combination vaccines protecting against ricin intoxication as well as other toxins, such as those associated with anthrax.
RiVax® is the Company’s vaccine candidate for the prevention of death following exposure to a lethal dose of ricin toxin using a unique antigen that is completely devoid of the toxic activity of ricin. The RiVax® antigen has demonstrated safety in two Phase 1 clinical studies. When formulated using Soligenix’s proprietary heat stabilization technology (ThermoVax®), RiVax® has demonstrated significantly enhanced thermostability and 100% protection to non-human primates in preclinical aerosol challenge models. This patent further supports the ability to combine the antigen for the RiVax® vaccine with other antigens to create a multivalent vaccine for potential protection against multiple biothreats, such as a combination with an anthrax vaccine.
The development of RiVax® has been sponsored through a series of grants from both National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and ongoing development is sponsored by NIAID contract # HHSN272201400039C.
About Ricin Toxin
Ricin toxin is a lethal plant-derived toxin and potential biological weapon because of its stability and high potency, and the fact it is readily extracted from by-products of castor oil production. Ricin comes in many forms including powder, mist or pellet. Ricin can also be dissolved in water and other liquids. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the lethal dose in humans is about the size of a grain of salt. Ricin toxin illness causes tissue necrosis and general organ failure leading to death within several days of exposure. Ricin is especially toxic when inhaled. Ricin works by entering cells of the body and preventing the cells from making the proteins it needs. Without the proteins, cells die, which is eventually harmful to the entire body.
There are currently no effective treatments for ricin poisoning. The successful development of an effective vaccine against ricin toxin may act as a deterrent against the actual use of ricin as a biological weapon and could be used to vaccinate military personnel and civilian emergency responders at high risk of potential exposure in the event of a biological attack.
RiVax® is Soligenix’s proprietary heat stable recombinant subunit vaccine developed to protect against exposure to ricin toxin, the recent threat of which has been highlighted in the news with an envelope addressed to President Trump that was thought to contain this potent and potentially lethal toxin. With RiVax®, Soligenix is a world leader in the area of ricin toxin vaccine research.
RiVax® contains a genetically altered version of a Ricin Toxin A (RTA) chain containing two mutations that inactivate the toxicity of the ricin molecule. A Phase 1A clinical trial was conducted with a formulation of RiVax® that did not contain an adjuvant. This trial revealed dose dependent seroconversion as well as lack of toxicity of the molecule when administered intramuscularly to human volunteers. The adjuvant-free formulation of RiVax® induced toxin neutralizing antibodies that lasted up to 127 days after the third vaccination in several individuals.
To increase the longevity and magnitude of toxin neutralizing antibodies, RiVax® was subsequently formulated with an adjuvant of aluminum salts (known colloquially as alum) for a Phase 1B clinical trial. Alum is an adjuvant that is used in many human vaccines, including most vaccines used in infants. The results of the Phase 1B study indicated that alum-adjuvanted RiVax® was safe and well tolerated, and induced greater ricin neutralizing antibody levels in humans than adjuvant-free RiVax®. In animal studies, the alum formulation of RiVax® also induced higher titers and longer-lasting antibodies than the adjuvant-free vaccine. Vaccination with the thermostabilized alum-adjuvanted RiVax® formulation in a large animal model provided 100% protection (p<0.0001) against acute exposure to aerosolized ricin, the most lethal route of exposure for ricin. The protected animals also had no signs of gross lung damage, a serious and enduring ramification with long-term consequences for survivors of ricin exposure. These results are described in a publication available here.
Heat stabilization of RiVax® is achieved with the Company’s proprietary ThermoVax® technology, designed to eliminate the cold-chain production, distribution and storage logistics required for most vaccines. The technology utilizes precise lyophilization of protein immunogens with conventional aluminum adjuvants in combination with secondary adjuvants for rapid onset of protective immunity with the fewest number of vaccinations. By employing ThermoVax® during the final formulation of RiVax®, the vaccine has demonstrated enhanced stability and the ability to withstand temperatures at least as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to one year. These results are described in a publication available here.
The development of RiVax® has been sponsored through a series of grants from both NIAID, and the FDA and ongoing development is sponsored by NIAID contract #HHSN272201400039C. The planned Phase 2 clinical trial is contingent upon exercise of the final option by the US government under NIAID contract #HHSN272201400039C and/or through other funding sources. RiVax® potentially would be added to the Strategic National Stockpile and dispensed in the event of a terrorist attack. RiVax® has received orphan drug designation in the US and in Europe.
As a new chemical entity, an FDA approved RiVax® vaccine has the potential to qualify for a biodefense Priority Review Voucher (PRV), which allows the holder accelerated review of a drug application. Approved under the 21st Century Health Cures Act in late 2016, the biodefense PRV is awarded upon approval as a medical countermeasure when the active ingredient(s) have not been otherwise approved for use in any context. PRVs are transferable and can be sold, with sales in recent years ranging between $125 million to $350 million. When redeemed, PRVs entitle the user to an accelerated review period of six months, saving a median of seven months’ review time as calculated in 2009. However, the FDA must be advised 90 days in advance of the use of the PRV and the use of a PRV is associated with an additional user fee ($2.7 million in 2017).
About Soligenix, Inc.
Soligenix is a late-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing products to treat rare diseases where there is an unmet medical need. Our BioTherapeutics business segment is developing SGX301 as a novel photodynamic therapy utilizing safe visible light for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, our first-in-class innate defense regulator (IDR) technology, dusquetide (SGX942) for the treatment of oral mucositis in head and neck cancer, and proprietary formulations of oral beclomethasone 17,21-dipropionate (BDP) for the prevention/treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders characterized by severe inflammation including pediatric Crohn’s disease (SGX203) and acute radiation enteritis (SGX201).
Our Vaccines/BioDefense business segment includes active development programs for RiVax®, our ricin toxin vaccine candidate and SGX943, our therapeutic candidate for antibiotic resistant and emerging infectious disease. The development of our vaccine programs incorporates the use of our proprietary heat stabilization platform technology, known as ThermoVax®. To date, this business segment has been supported with government grant and contract funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
For further information regarding Soligenix, Inc., please visit the Company’s website at www.soligenix.com.
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