Tetragenetics receives funding through Gates initiative

Tetragenetics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based early-stage biotechnology company, announced on Monday that it received Phase II funding for a malaria vaccine candidate through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ted Clark, the chief scientific officer and founder of Tetragenetics, will use the funding to pursue the global health research project to create a highly potent delivery system for malaria vaccine antigens. The Grand Challenges Explorations is an initiative that allows individuals to test bold ideas to address persistent development and health challenges.

"This funding will enable the company to continue to advance our novel transmission blocking vaccine against malaria, addressing a current unmet medical need," Clark said. "The company is working to develop a safe and effective vaccine to prevent malaria, a major health affliction that poses a risk to roughly half the world's population."

In 2009, Tetragenetics received a Phase I GCE grant to develop the transmission blocking program. The company uses a proprietary suite of platform technologies to rapidly produce proteins that are difficult or impossible to express in conventional systems.

"Our technology allows us to fuse candidate vaccine antigens from malaria to self-assembling proteins from the ciliated protozoan, Tetrahymena, to create nanometer-sized particles (G-SOMES) that have the potential to be highly immunogenic in humans and other vertebrate hosts," Clark said. "Phase II funding through the GCE program is being used to test conventional systems, such as bacteria and mammalian tissue culture cells, as platforms for the production of these particle-based vaccines with the eventual goal of blocking malaria transmission in areas of the world where the disease is endemic."

GCE's Phase I funding program allows individuals to take innovative approaches to global health challenges. The Phase II funding recognizes the ideas that make significant progress toward implementation.

"Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off," Chris Wilson, the director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said. "We're excited that we consistently receive so many surprising ideas from around the world and that we're able to provide a second round of funding for some of the most unconventional among them."

Grand Challenges Explorations has awarded grants to more than 700 people in 45 different countries. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded twice a year and successful projects can receive a follow-on grant of as much as $1 million.