Next up in our series of interviews in preparation for the World Vaccine Congress in Washington this April are our speakers from US BIOLOGIC: Dr Jolieke van Oosterwijk and Chris Przybyszewski. We were delighted that they took the time to answer our questions and give us an insight into the work they are doing before we hear more at the Congress.  

Tell us more about your work 

US BIOLOGIC asks the question “what if we could protect ourselves without needles?”, developing oral vaccines for global disease prevention. We wanted to find out a little more about what this involves, and what applications they are working on. Says Dr van Oosterwijk:

“At US BIOLOGIC, we use our proprietary oral-delivery platform, OrisBio, to deliver vaccines and therapeutics to animals and humans, with a focus on zoonotic diseases.” 

The platform has already been used to develop a vaccine for the mouse reservoir host of Lyme bacteria in the wild, which “interrupts the transmission cycle between mouse and ticks”. However, it doesn’t stop there. The platform is expanded to “multiple species”, with a “chewable influenza vaccine for humans” in development! 

“With the OrisBio platform, we are building a product line that increases vaccine equity, negates the need for cold chain, increases shelf life, and allows for rapid response to new and emerging pathogens, anywhere in the world.”  

Dr van Oosterwijk’s sessions  

During the Congress, Dr van Oosterwijk will be exploring AMR and biodefence with One Health perspectives in mind. We asked what challenges these issues present, and how a One Health approach can be applied. Dr van Oosterwijk suggests that for both AMR and biodefence, the challenge is “the emergence of new pathogens and/or variants of existing pathogens”.  

“Increased surveillance of pathogens circulating in human and animal populations is crucial for timely response.” 

Furthermore, she emphasises the importance “developing rapid response measures that can be easily adapted” to suit new pathogens and strains, and “those can be produced large scale, have a minimal cost burden, and are easily distributed globally”. 

“One paradigm to achieve these goals is One Health, which addresses diseases at the human and animal level.”

Pandemics at animal level 

Mr Przybyszewski will be focusing on pandemics that start at an animal level at the Congress, so we asked about preparing for future threats. He told us that, apart from the human burden of animal-borne diseases, they “cost billions of dollars, directly, and trillions in global economic impact”.  

“A key challenge is tracking the emergence and changes in diseases in wildlife and in the food industry, so we are always chasing the problem. We need an adaptive platform by which the predictive analytic toolsets help us build and apply responsive vaccines and other interventions.”  

Oral vaccines 

As US BIOLOGIC deals with oral vaccines, we wanted to understand more about the benefits they offer, and the challenges that might arise. Dr van Oosterwijk and Mr Przybyszewski suggest that they allow us to “reach a broader population than traditional syringe vaccines”. Why is this? Well, for US BIOLOGIC’s vaccines, they are “thermostable, cost efficient, and can be shipped anywhere at any time”. 

Furthermore, they are “particularly useful in the animal world” because they can be “integrated in animal feed, animal water supplies, or applied to target species in wildlife”. However, each species “presents with a unique digestive system”. Thus, “vaccine formulations need to be adapted to reach those areas of the intestinal system that contain the lymphoid tissue to elicit an immune response”.  

Why One Health? 

We hear a lot about the importance of One Health in understanding and preventing threats, so we asked about its importance to the team at US BIOLOGIC and what it requires of them.  

“One Health demands that we understand how people, animals, plants, and their respective environments interact with diseases and each other.”  

Now, due to “encroachment into former wildlife habitat” and “geographic expansion of disease reservoirs and vectors due to climate change”, humans and animals interact “more than ever”. With this “increased contact” comes an “increased opportunity for pathogenic spillover”.  

“One Health also demands close collaboration between the veterinary and human-health professionals identifying areas of need and implementing solutions, as well as active crosstalk between academic and research institutions, policy makers and industry.”  

At US BIOLOGIC, this means working with experts to “respond to the needs of the target species, to understand pathogen transmission, and to develop an effective, targeted solution”.  

How ready are we for future threats? 

In our conversations with health and industry experts, we often ask for their opinion on our level of preparedness for future threats. For Mr Przybyszewski and Dr van Oosterwijk, “we are not as prepared for future threats as we could be”. They identify the need for an “infrastructure to lessen the threats existing or arising”.  

“OrisBio is an important part of that infrastructure, combining artificial intelligence with active surveillance data to understand the identity, behaviour, and geographic movements of emerging threats, all to guide integrated solutions that can be implemented in 100 days.”  

Why our Congress? 

As always, we want to know what is bringing the team to the Congress in April, and what they hope to gain.  

“At US BIOLOGIC, we say ‘Aspire. Innovate. Deliver.’ The Congress in an excellent place to convene with like-minded professionals who will build with us the future of pandemic prevention.” 

We are grateful to Dr van Oosterwijk and Mr Przybyszewski for their thoughtful and valuable insights, and we can’t wait to hear more at the Congress. To join us there, get your tickets today.