Immuron and US Department of Defense look to develop silver bullet for gastro infections

Immuron ASX IMC US Department of Defense gastro infections research Travelan
Three US Defense Health funded research projects on Travelan have been successfully completed.

Biopharmaceutical company Immuron (ASX: IMC) is making significant territorial advances in its mission to develop and market a range of oral immunotherapeutics for the treatment of gut mediated pathogens.

Earlier today, Immuron announced that its ongoing working partnership with the US Department of Defense (DoD) was “moving forward” and that its cooperative research and development agreements are delivering valuable research with three US DoD research projects into Travelan already completed.

To date, Immuron’s Travelan product has been the subject of clinical research done by the US Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS), the lab where Travelan was first studied by the US DoD.

The future of Travelan

Travelan represents Immuron’s flagship over-the-counter gastrointestinal and digestive health supplement that combats diarrhoeal diseases such as Shigella.

Immuron has previously reported that Travelan underwent robust sales growth in Q2 and Q3 of last year, reaching A$1.37 million in revenue sales — a 40% increase on the previous year.

The global burden of diarrhoeal diseases outweighs any of the more complex diseases seen in gastroenterology clinics with around 1.5 billion episodes of diarrhoea recorded worldwide each year. These episodes are often not life-threatening, but poor response rates result in the deaths of approximately 2.2 million people, mostly children in developing countries.

The rate of occurrence and the debilitating effects caused by various gastro infections has attracted the attention of the US Defense Department given the fact that it directs hundreds of thousands of service personnel to regions where such infections are most frequent and acute.

A preventative treatment that protects against enteric diseases, specifically Shigella, has quickly become a high priority objective for the US Army. Shigella is estimated to cause 80 –165 million cases of the disease worldwide, resulting in 600,000 deaths annually and is particularly prevalent in both sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

“Travelan has been designed to target selected surface antigens from the most common strains of Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), bacteria which play a dominant and causative role in Travellers’ diarrhoea,” said Dr Jerry Kanellos, CEO of Immuron.

“The work completed at the US Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, US Naval Medical Research Center and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research has highlighted that in laboratory testing Travelan was effective across all strains and species of enteropathogenic bacteria tested,” said Mr Kanellos.

From study to practice

The US DoD commissioned several studies to characterise the antibodies within Travelan, with the aim of progressing trials to determine Travelan’s effectiveness in neutralising pathogenic gastrointestinal bacterial infections.

The studies were commissioned as a means of combating growing cases of gastro diseases affecting US servicemen in environmentally challenging regions around the world such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

The US DoD is working with multiple partners to develop a preventative treatment for US military personnel stationed in locations where gastro infections may be debilitating.

The research being conducted by the US DoD and Immuron has the potential to lead into development of new treatments and could potentially lead to a “new preventative modality” for US troops, according to Dr Kanellos.

In addition to its collaboration with the DoD in the US, Immuron is also pushing into public-private collaborations in Australia as well.

Immuron has said that it has engaged the services and facilities of the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to produce three Shigella therapeutic products for preclinical assessment by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR).

Approval was obtained from Biosecurity Australia early this year to import the Shigella specific vaccines developed and produced by the WRAIR which will be used to manufacture the products.

Immuron says the vaccination program will be initiated in August this year and the finished products should be available by the end of the calendar year.

Furthermore, the Campylobacter research team at the US Naval Medical Research Center and Immuron have recently submitted a grant funding proposal for the development of a therapeutic product against Campylobacter and other enteric pathogens.

According to Immuron, if approved, the US DoD will fund the clinical development of the product.

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