Who are we?
Baseimmune is a discovery-phase biotech start-up focused on antigen discovery and vaccine development. Baseimmune’s technology harnesses pathogen and epidemiological big data combined with biological expertise to devise a robust method for antigen discovery, one of the major roadblocks in vaccine development. By streamlining the antigen selection process, we can develop better vaccines and empower agriculture and public health to stop emerging dangerous pathogens from spreading.
What problem is Baseimmune solving?
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that the threat of infectious diseases is ever-present. Infectious diseases currently account for 3 out of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, and are ranked as the leading threat in terms of likely global impact by the World Economic Forum, ahead of climate change. Vaccines are the most effective public health intervention in history - in some cases leading to near or total eradication of diseases like smallpox and polio - yet around 1.5 million people still die every year around the world due to a lack of effective vaccines against preventable diseases.
Vaccines work by training the immune system to recognise and respond to infection with a specific pathogen, such as a virus, parasite or bacteria. At the heart of every vaccine is an antigen - a small, safe molecule based on part of the pathogen - which triggers the protective immune response.
In recent years there have been huge advances in vaccine delivery systems, such as the mRNA and viral vector vaccines that have been developed against COVID-19, but there has been little progress on antigen design, which remains the biggest roadblock to the development of effective vaccines for many life-threatening diseases.
Many vaccines, including the recent WHO-approved malaria vaccine, offer relatively low rates of protection, while there are numerous infectious diseases for which no effective vaccines currently exist, including HIV, chikungunya, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and antimicrobial resistant bacteria.
Furthermore, pathogens are evolving constantly to adapt and evade our immune defences, leading to the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants. For example, new flu vaccines must be developed each year to cover what is thought will be the next circulating winter strain.
Baseimmune is creating the next generation of universal future-proof vaccines for human and animal health. The company’s proprietary deep learning technology uses innovative and powerful technology to generate completely new vaccines to target diseases that have previously been hard to protect against, as well as emerging and evolving pathogens.
For further background on the impact that vaccines have had on public health and the challenges of vaccine development, see Pollard, A.J., Bijker, E.M. A guide to vaccinology: from basic principles to new developments. Nat Rev Immunol 21, 83–100 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41577-020-00479-7
How does Baseimmune’s antigen prediction software work?
Most vaccine antigens are based on a single pathogen component, such as the spike protein of the COVID SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which limits their effectiveness and ability to cope with new variants.
Baseimmune’s deep learning algorithm integrates genomic, epidemiological, immunological, clinical and evolutionary data together to create entirely new synthetic antigens drawn from the entire pathogen, rather than a single protein. The antigen design can then be fed into any vaccine technology platform, including mRNA, DNA and viral vectors, for subsequent lab testing and clinical trials, hugely accelerating the vaccine design process from years to months.
Are the vaccines designed by Baseimmune’s algorithm safe?
All vaccines, whatever the type, are taken up by cells in the body, which chop up the antigen into smaller pieces and ‘show’ it to the immune system in order to trigger an immune response. Although this immune response is long-lasting, the vaccine itself is not, and its components are quickly broken down. Any vaccine designed using Baseimmune’s technology would therefore not persist in the body.
All the synthetic antigens designed by the Baseimmune platform are carefully analysed to ensure they have no similarities to any existing human proteins or allergens, to avoid triggering autoimmune or allergic reactions.
As with all other vaccines, any vaccine designed using Baseimmune’s software will undergo extensive testing in the lab and in clinical trials to ensure safety and effectiveness.
What vaccines are we working on?
Baseimmune is currently partnering with a number of leading academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies and vaccine manufacturers to design and develop vaccines across a range of diseases.
For example, the company recently partnered with DNA vaccine pioneers Touchlight to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine aimed at tackling the emergence of new variants and preventing future pandemics.
Another of Baseimmmune’s lead candidates is a vaccine against African Swine Fever, a disease in pigs with almost 100% mortality that has swept across China and was recently found in Germany. There is currently no commercial vaccine available against the disease and new variants of the virus are rapidly emerging, posing a serious threat to the global pork industry.
The team is also collaborating with Professor Jake Baum and his team at Imperial College London to find more effective malaria vaccine candidates that target the parasite in completely novel ways, which could save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.
Who is behind Baseimmune?
Founded in 2019, the company grew out of research by Josh Blight and Ariane Gomes, who met while doing their PhDs at the prestigious Jenner Institute at Oxford University and teamed up with software engineer Phillip Kemlo to build the antigen design algorithm.
Dr Joshua Blight
Ariane plays a critical role in the strategical, scientific and financial management of the company. She is a biologist specialised in immunology and vaccine development and she holds a PhD in Clinical Medicine from the University of Oxford. Her expertise spans development, characterisation and testing of novel vaccine platforms and adjuvants with a special interest in unravelling the interactions of vaccines with the immune system. She contributed to the pre-clinical development of 6 vaccines developed during her time at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute. Her interest in the vaccine development industry was sparked whilst conducting research at leading centres for vaccine development and infectious diseases including the Stanford School of Medicine and the Fiocruz Institute in Brazil and most recently as a postdoctoral researcher at the University College London.
Dr Ariane Gomes
Josh has a PhD in Vaccinology and Infectious Diseases from the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford where he pioneered complex bioinformatic approaches to design vaccines against various infectious diseases. He has a strong scientific background and extensive experience in a broad spectrum of diseases from dengue and chikungunya to human papilloma virus (HPV) and malaria. Two of his vaccine candidates are currently in human clinical trials, he holds patents for several others and he has overseen the preclinical development of 7 more vaccines. As a co-founder of Baseimmune, he is responsible for the scientific excellence of the company as well as for the selection of the vaccine candidates. Previous positions include vaccine design, development and testing at the Jenner Institute and scientific consultancy for a leading pharmaceutical company. For the last three years he has been working as a postdoctoral research associate at Imperial College London, developing new innovative ways to create malaria vaccines.
Phillip is a self-taught computer software engineer who previously worked with the team at the Jenner Institute to develop the computer algorithms used to develop a number of the vaccines at the Institute, including the HPV and Chikungunya vaccines. As a co-founding partner and software consultant for Baseimmune, he is working on a variety of projects developing and optimising the bespoke software and database that underpins the company’s technology platform.
Early investors in Baseimmune include Creator Fund, Maki.vc, Rockmount, Tiny.vc, Angels and KQ Labs. Led by Hoxton Ventures, the company’s latest funding round includes follow-up investment and new investment from Cherry Ventures and Beast Ventures.
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