How Baseimmune's deep learning platform could help develop future-proof vaccines

17 Jun 2021

UK biotech startup Baseimmune is working on designing variant-proof vaccines against ASFV and PRRSV, based on their deep learning data-driven platform.

Baseimmune is an early biotech startup company working on a bespoke data-driven platform that aims to change the way we make vaccines. Antigen selection and embedded delivery system strategies remain major obstacles for better vaccine implementation, and while the vaccine field has benefited from recent advances in adjuvants and delivery systems, the antigen selection process has remained steady and represents the major cornerstone of vaccine design. Baseimmune fills this gap in the market with their unique platform which combines the most recent data in genomics, proteomics and epidemiology with biological expertise, and incorporating this information into antigen discovery and vaccine design. Through its deep learning ability, the platform can predict how viruses will change, and thus discover hundreds of suitable target antigens within current and future strains simultaneously for better design of universal vaccines. This is important because current vaccines may not offer the same immunity against future mutant strains. The candidate antigens are then tested in Baseimmune’s laboratories, based at Imperial College London, for their immunogenicity and efficacy.

The focus of the company within the next 18 months is to design and develop the most promising vaccines against the viral diseases African swine fever (ASF) and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). For this work, Baseimmune has secured a £685,000 investment led by a student-led venture capital fund, Creator Fund, and joined by and Rockmount Seed Investments Ltd. Before that, in September 2019, Baseimmune was selected to join the six-month accelerator program at the KQ Labs cohort 2 which is run by the Francis Crick Institute and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

ASF and PRRS are highly contagious viral diseases of domestic and wild pigs, and are responsible for serious global economic and production challenges. ASF has mortality often up to 100% of the animals it infects. PRRS infects pigs of all ages, and threatens about 70% of the world’s pig population. Despite being in circulation for nearly 100 years, there are still no effective vaccines against these viruses mainly due to the high genetic diversity of the continuously emerging strains. This presents a great challenge for Baseimmune’s platform whose ability to use the power of big data, high-performance computing and deep learning can lead to the design of more complex antigens for effective vaccines that can protect a wider range of strains and variants of a given pathogen today, as well as in the future.

Baseimmune was founded in 2019 by Dr Joshua Blight (Chief Scientific Officer) and Dr Ariane C Gomes (Chief Executive Officer), both with PhDs from the Jenner Institute and postdocs in vaccine development, together with self-taught computer scientist Phillip Kemlo (Chief Technical Officer), who has been instrumental in building the deep learning platform from scratch. The team is working with world-leading academics and prior to Baseimmune, has six antigens in various stages of development. One of them, the world’s first multi-genotype therapeutic vaccine against human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, was licensed from University of Oxford Innovation to Vaccitech Ltd (the Oxford company that helped develop the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine) for human trials. Baseimmune recently collaborated with the world-renowned expert in malaria research Professor Jake Baum at Imperial College London to develop and test a malaria subunit vaccine.

By rationally designing effective and safe vaccines, that are evidence-based and constructed using the most recent public data, Baseimmune’s mission is to empower agriculture and public health to stop dangerous emerging pathogens from spreading. While swine viral vaccines are Baseimmune’s lead products, the company has a number of other developments in the offing which include research into malaria and SARS-CoV-2.

The team is always looking for opportunities to collaborate with groups to provide support in the testing of our candidates in pigs. We also always open to starting new co-developments against new pathogens. Anyone who is interested should reach out through the Baseimmune website.

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