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InvestMaryland Challenge: Q&A with SynAm Vaccine

Frozen SynAm Vaccine
SynAm Vaccine is developing a universal vaccine for pneumonia strain diseases.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Rockville-based SynAm Vaccine, founded in 2000. To find out a little more about this innovative company, we spoke with Vice President of Business Development Carolyn Chen.

Q. What does SynAm Vaccine do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. We are developing universal vaccines for pneumonia. Current vaccines for pneumonia cover 13 of the 91 strains for pneumonia that are responsible for the pneumococcal diseases, but our vaccine covers all of them. We have three different product lines and we’ve completed preliminary, preclinical studies for two of them. For our lead product, we’ve completed all animal studies, including the use of human blood in the studies, as well, so it does show that our product works as a universal vaccine for all strains. We are gearing up for our first human clinical trial that will be in the next 15 months, and those clinical trials will be held in Maryland.

Q. Tell us more about the unique and innovative things your company is doing. How is it moving the industry forward?

A. There have been four vaccines on the market for pneumonia over the past 25 years and there have been two different methods used to structure the vaccine. Our method is completely different. It would be a new breakthrough method focused on neutralizing the toxin of the bacteria. The toxin itself is the only common element of all 91 strains, so we would be the next vaccine, although our structure and methodology would be completely different from anything before.

Q. What are the consequences of using the current drugs instead of what you’re developing?

A. The current vaccines actually cause the current strains to become more virulent, so what we’re finding over the past 25 years is that even though there are four vaccines on the market, the incidence of the disease has not changed. Even though we are eliminating some strains, new strains just pop up. The first vaccine covers seven strains, the second vaccine covers 13, and what happens is that the vaccine will wipe out those strains and a whole batch of new strains will pop right back up and you’ll have the same incidence of pneumonia. These includes all pneumococcal diseases, which include pneumonia, middle ear infections in children, as well as meningitis and sepsis, so it covers a huge amount of diseases, but they all are based on one bacteria. Just focusing on the toxin, you’re able to target many indications and actually lower the incidence of the disease.

Q. If SynAm Vaccine were to win prize money in the contest, how would it use the money to further its goals?

A. The prize would come at a very good time for us. We are in the middle of our Phase 1 clinical trials, so we actually need funds to expand our office space, as well as hire regulatory and manufacturing consultants—all based in Maryland—so the funds would be used in our office and for our employee base here.

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