Skip to content

Burnaby firm partners with Merck to research oral COVID-19 vaccine delivery

An oral vaccine could transform the landscape of traditional vaccination approaches
COVID-19 swab in lab Photo: Getty Images

A Burnaby biotech company is partnering with a global pharmaceutical giant on research into advancing delivery of oral vaccines, including for COVID-19.

Symvivo Corporation, a clinical-stage biotechnology company that has a proprietary bacTRL gene delivery platform, announced Tuesday that it has entered into a research collaboration with Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp. Under the terms of the agreement, Merck receives an option to take an exclusive license to Symvivo’s bacTRL platform technology for use in advancing delivery of oral vaccines.

“We are excited to be collaborating with Merck on this novel program,” said Lloyd Mackenzie, president and COO at Symvivo. “This agreement builds on Symvivo’s efforts to develop the bacTRL platform across a range of diverse and important indications.”

Merck is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, with revenues of more than $40 billion annually.

Symvivo is now doing human trials for an oral vaccine for COVID-19 as it announced in November 2020 the enrollment and dosing of the first healthy volunteer in a clinical trial in Australia evaluating its bacTRL-Spike oral vaccine candidate for the prevention of COVID-19.

“We are exceptionally pleased to commence dosing of our oral DNA vaccine for COVID-19 as we continue scale-up and manufacturing activities for future clinical development,” said Eric Sievers, chief medical officer of Symvivo, in a statement. “The rapidly advancing pandemic mandates innovative scientific approaches and we believe a safe, protective oral vaccine could transform the landscape of traditional vaccination approaches, eliminating the need for syringes, needles, and trained vaccinators.”

The phase 1 trial, entitled Evaluating the Safety, Tolerability and Immunogenicity of bacTRL-Spike Vaccine for Prevention of COVID-19 (NCT04334980), is being conducted in partnership with Nucleus Network in Brisbane, Australia.

Unlike traditional vaccines that are delivered by intramuscular injection, bacTRL-Spike is taken orally, providing the potential for individuals to self-administer the vaccine rather than requiring a trained medical professional, the company said.

In October 2020, Symvivo announced that it is receiving advisory services and funding of up to $2.8 million from the federal government’s National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) to support the clinical advancement of bacTRL-Spike.