- IP Status: Patent application submitted, Patented
- Seeking: Commercial partner, Licensing, Development partner
Parasitic ﬁlarial nematode infections represent a major global health problem for both humans and animals.
For companion animals, by far the most important ﬁlarial infection is canine heartworm, with 500,000 dogs infected each year in the USA alone. Currently, prevention of canine heartworm relies on prophylactic treatment of dogs and cats with ivermectin or other macrocyclic lactones. Over 69% of dog owners use monthly heartworm medication for their companion dogs and in 2012, American dog owners spent $75 - $100 per dog per year on heartworm medication. The canine population in the USA is >80 million.
However, concerns about the eﬃcacy of preventatives have been raised recently following the identiﬁcation of drug-resistant heartworm in the USA. This emphasises the importance of ongoing ﬁlarial vaccine research.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool and the University of Edinburgh have developed a prototype vaccine that can greatly reduce transmission of parasitic nematodes and which could be adopted for the prevention and/or treatment of infections in dogs. The vaccine comprises a ShK toxin domain of a ﬁlarial nematode protein.
The team found that ﬁlarial nematodes secrete unique proteins containing six cysteine-rich ShK toxin domains. Although the overall sequence identity of these proteins between ﬁlarial parasite species can be low, the ShK domain sequences themselves are more conserved. Vaccination against speciﬁc ShK-domain proteins can help reduce the parasite’s ability to evade the host’s immune response.
The market opportunity is a cost-eﬀective veterinary vaccine to block canine heartworm transmission. The vaccine may also help prevent heartworm infection when used in combination with reduced preventative drug coverage, providing protection if prophylaxis lapses or if worms are partially resistant.
The University of Liverpool is currently seeking a licensing partner to provide expertise in the commercialisation of the technology.
- A patent application was ﬁled in 2014 (WO 2015/121646 ), and covers both the human and animal applications of a ﬁlarial vaccine.