West Deptford-based Akers Biosciences Inc., a developer of rapid health information technologies, announced Tuesday it acquired a licensing agreement with Premas Biotech.
Under the agreement, Akers will in-license a novel coronavirus vaccine candidate under development by Premas using that company’s genetically engineered S. cerevisiae platform, D-Crypt, and partner with it to ultimately seek FDA approval.
Akers Executive Chairman Christopher Schreiber said: “Akers is a Nasdaq listed company with a 30-year history in the development and manufacturing of rapid diagnostic tests. We have always been focused on solving global health challenges. After careful evaluation, partnering with Premas to address the global health pandemic of coronavirus represents an important opportunity to leverage our expertise, leadership, and access to capital as a public company to end this threat.
“We are also evaluating the utilization of our facility with Premas for the development of this vaccine candidate as we move the product forward,” he continued.
Under the terms of the agreement, Akers is acquiring Cystron Biotech LLC for a $1 million upfront payment, 622,756 shares of common stock or common stock equivalents and a royalty on net sales.
In addition, Akers will make additional payments of cash and stock to the sellers of Cystron Biotech LLC upon the achievement of certain milestones, along with a change of control.
Akers is also required to make certain cash payments to Premas upon the achievement of additional milestones. A more detailed description of the transaction documents is available on Akers’ Current Report on Form 8-K, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The current global crisis has created the potential for an expedited review process from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which recently noted its willingness to fast-track human clinical trials for certain candidates pertaining to COVID-19.
Prabuddha Kundu, co-founder and managing director at India-based Premas Biotech, said: “The strategic relationship today between Premas and Akers should accelerate our development timeline as we leverage the proven D-Crypt platform … We believe our platform has three key advantages which we believe will set our potential vaccine apart in the industry.”
Kundu said Premas has successfully expressed more than 30 proteins of similar profile to those in the structure of COVID-19.
“We believe our platform is well suited for the expression of difficult vaccine candidate proteins, a key and difficult step in the process of developing a vaccine. Second, the technology platform is highly scalable with a robust process, which should represent significant cost savings compared to other similar vaccine platforms, which we believe is a key advantage to peers in the field.”
He said he believes the current global pandemic might allow for an expedited FDA review timeline based on recent pronouncements regarding other COVID-19 vaccine and treatment candidates.
“In fact, we would hope to have material updates regarding proof of concept, drug design, and regulatory discussions in the near term.”