Helicobacter pylori is a natural bacterium that lives in the stomach of people, and currently infects about 60% of the world’s population. Ground breaking work by Professor Barry Marshall, the founder of Ondek®, led to the discovery that H. pylori is the only bacterium to live in the stomach and identified an association between this bacterium and peptic ulcers, for which he and Dr Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of individuals infected with H. pylori suffer no ill effects from the bacterium.
The bacterium survives in the human stomach by modulating the immune system to tolerate its presence. There is considerable evidence to support the hypothesis that reduced exposure to infectious microbes early in life has deprived the immune system of immunoregulatory stimulation necessary for protection against allergic disease. The escalating prevalence of allergy in developed countries is believed to result from alterations in the composition of gut microbes induced by environmental factors, such as antibiotics, diet and sanitation.
Ondek® is developing a derivative of the H. pylori bacterium that is unable to colonise the gut, yet confers immune regulatory activity and protects against allergic asthma in mice. The company has patented this derivative, named ImmBALANCE® and is developing it as a core ingredient for products that will reduce the allergic response in children, adolescents and adults.