LimmaTech regains a shigella shot from GSK and a new CEO from CureVac

It's been a busy week for LimmaTech Biologics. Not only has GSK handed back the license for an investigational shigella vaccine that started life at the biotech, but the Swiss company has also brought on a former CureVac exec as CEO.

LimmaTech, which spun out from GlycoVaxyn after its 2015 acquisition by GSK, has entered an in-license agreement with the British Big Pharma that will hand back rights to the quadrivalent bioconjugate vaccine candidate for shigella, a bacteria that is responsible for an estimated 600,000 deaths globally each year.

When GSK acquired GlycoVaxyn, it added the candidate to its pipeline and offered LimmaTech a research agreement to develop new bioconjugate antigen-based vaccines in partnership with the U.K.'s non-profit Wellcome Trust.

Now, as LimmaTech anticipates upcoming phase 1/2 trial readouts for the multivalent shigella vaccine, GSK has handed back the candidate, with plans to prioritize its own vaccine for the bacteria.

“LimmaTech will give this candidate vaccine the greatest chance of success, while GSK continues to use its expertise to progress another vaccine in clinical development using a GSK proprietary vaccine platform technology called GMMA,” GSK’s Chief Global Health Officer Thomas Breuer, M.D., said in a July 20 release.

“Having more than one vaccine could improve supply security and enable countries to implement the one that best suits their particular needs,” Breuer added. “Together, we can get ahead of Shigella.”

Shigella causes shigellosis, a serious diarrheal infection that has a disproportionate impact in low- and middle-income countries where mortality and morbidity are higher. The standard treatment is oral rehydration and antibiotic therapy, but the bacteria have acquired resistance to several antibiotics, making treatment difficult. Currently, there aren’t any shigella vaccines available on the market.

But that’s not the only development at LimmaTech, which also has named Franz-Werner Haas as its new CEO. Haas joins LimmaTech from vaccine developer CureVac, where he spent 11 years. He most recently served as CEO at the company after tenures as chief corporate officer and chief operating officer.  

“Franz’s appointment strategically aligns with our current growth trajectory and validates LimmaTech’s achievements in the development of an innovative antibacterial vaccine pipeline,” Philippe Dro, LimmaTech co-founder and chair for the board of directors, said in a July 20 release. “His experience, particularly on the frontline of vaccine development during the COVID-19 pandemic, makes him an excellent fit for LimmaTech.”

The company didn’t have a CEO before Haas, with its management team made up of three people: Managing Director and Vice President of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs Patricia Martin, Ph.D.; co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Michael Kowarik, Ph.D.; and co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Paul Wolfrom.