Big DNA announces further £1.5m funding
3 November 2008
Edinburgh biotech firm, Big DNA Ltd, launched two years ago to commercialise a patented new vaccine technology, has announced a further successful round of funding. £1.5m has been raised from an international consortium including private and institutional investors based in Hong Kong, London and the Cayman Islands, with the Scottish Enterprise Co-investment Fund also participating.
'In the current financial climate, this investment confirms the strength of our new technology for delivering vaccines to humans and animals, the vast potential of the market, and the strength of the management team we are currently putting in place,' says Dr John March, founder and chief executive of Big DNA Ltd. 'Our patented technology has enormous potential importance for public health in the future, and this investment comes at a time when it must be the hardest in living memory to raise finance.'
The unique process being developed by Dr. John March and his team uses bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) to deliver a vaccine. These contain the genetic instructions (or DNA) rather than using the disease organism itself, which conventional vaccines rely upon.
Conventional vaccines can be difficult and expensive to make, requiring specialist facilities and expertise, and sometimes fail to work for some diseases. Bacteriophage DNA vaccines offer the potential for extremely rapid development and manufacture, using relatively simple processes (weeks rather than months), important for pandemic influenza for example. In addition they offer the potential to be taken orally, eliminating the need for needles and injections and all their associated hazards. A range of vaccines are currently under development.
The additional investment will help BigDNA to develop the technology further, develop manufacturing processes for vaccines, and to go through the regulatory approvals process to develop the vaccines for clinical trials. 'It will also help us to continue to develop further collaborative research ventures with academic and commercial bodies, a process which helps us all get the results we are after much more quickly,' continues Dr John March.
Last week Big DNA announced an important collaboration with colleagues in Beijing at the China Agricultural University to produce vaccines against Chlamydia in pigs. Lord Freeman, formerly Minister of State for Public Transport and Defence Procurement Minister, was appointed chairman of Big DNA earlier this year.
Big DNA Ltd is based at Roslin, Edinburgh www.bigdna.co.uk
This information, further details and interview opportunities from: Carol Anderson,
The Business, tel 0131 718 6022
Despite recent controversies, vaccination is one the great success stories of modern medicine, most notably with the eradication of smallpox in 1977, which was estimated to have caused 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century. Polio has also been almost completely eradicated, with cases down from 350 000 per year before a global vaccination campaign started in 1988 to less than 2000 in 2006, with most countries world-wide being declared polio-free. Other once-common diseases such as measles, diphtheria, pertussis and rubella have seen a massive reduction in cases since the introduction of vaccination campaigns and are nearing eradication in many developed countries.
Dr John March, chief executive, Big DNA Ltd
Dr John March is a science graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has a BSc in Molecular Biology and a PhD in DNA Replication, and an MBA from the University of Dundee. He has held many important research positions including at the Dept of Molecular Biology at Edinburgh University, the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, and Harvard Medical School, Boston USA. He was a research fellow at the Centre for Genome Research University of Edinburgh. Amongst very many professional memberships, he sits on the review panel of DEFRA, Exotic Disease Research Programme. He is an enterprise fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, and an award winner of the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Award. He has published many papers on Bacteriophages and Biotechnology, vaccines, gene therapy and antibacterials, and holds patents for Bacteriophage-mediated immunisation.