A company in which technology specialist VCT manager Quester has invested stands to receive a boost from rising fears over a possible Avian flu outbreak. Quester participated, via the Isis College Fund it manages, in an initial £20 million fundraising for PowderMed in May 2004, alongside Abingworth, Advent and Schroders amongst others.
The venture is developing a DNA-based flu vaccine that can be created in a quarter of the time taken to produce normal vaccines. The patented system enables gold particles coated in the DNA vaccine to be propelled into the skin using high-pressure helium.
PowderMed anticipates its techniques could create enough vaccine in three months to meet the US government’s plan to produce a stockpile ‘to ensure sufficient vaccine to vaccinate the entire US population within six months of the emergence of a virus with pandemic potential’.
The White House wants to ensure this can be produced domestically and President Bush is asking Congress for $2.8 billion to speed the development of vaccines, as new strains emerge. Consequently, the company has a US subsidiary specifically focused on this programme.
PowderMed is also working on vaccines to combat cancer and other viral diseases.