Biopharmaceutical company Prokarium has received funding from the UK and Mexican Governments to develop three new vaccines to treat the Zika virus, bacterial diarrhoea and the plague.

Starting in 2017, Prokarium will use the new £2m funding to conduct a Phase I clinical study for the most advanced of the three vaccines to prevent the occurrence of the plague.

Though a rare disease at present, plague bacteria can be easily cultured and changed into an aerosol for bio-terrorism with less difficulty compared to that of other disease-causing organisms.

Prokarium chairman Steve Chatfield said: “Our technology provides the means to rapidly develop and manufacture oral vaccines for emerging diseases and potential bioterrorist threats.

“All of our operations are based in the UK, enabling us to play our part in fulfilling the Government’s aim of strengthening the UK’s vaccine manufacturing capability so that it can be deployed rapidly in the face of emerging disease threats.”

“Our technology provides the means to rapidly develop and manufacture oral vaccines for emerging diseases and potential bioterrorist threats.”

The new vaccine developed by Prokarium can stay stable at 4°C for more than 3 years and will be delivered orally.

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This allows the vaccine to be stored as a reserve for urgent distribution to the general population in times of emergency.

The biopharmaceutical company aims to produce an oral vaccine that can be easily administered and is highly effective and stable for long periods in storage.

The new contracts awarded by the government will last up to two years, and will allow the company to further develop vaccines for the Zika virus, as well as bacterial diarrhoea and enteric fever.

Image: Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague disease. Photo: courtesy of CDC / Larry Stauffer, Oregon State Public Health Laboratory.