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About us

We are a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company spun out from Merck in 2007. Our headquarters are in Basel and we have laboratories in Rome and Naples.
Our founders, Riccardo Cortese and his team, were also the founders of Istituto di Ricerche di Biologia Molecolare (IRBM), which later became a subsidiary of Merck Inc. While at IRBM, they made significant contributions to the field of infectious diseases, including elucidation of the mechanism of action of the hepatitis C protease and polymerase enzymes, and discovery of the HIV fusion inhibitor ISENTRESS®.

Today we are developing genetic vaccines for major infectious diseases, including hepatitis C, malaria, HIV, respiratory syncytial virus and influenza. We are also pursuing therapeutic vaccines to treat cancer.

Our approach is centred on exploiting our novel, proprietary and highly potent, replication-incompetent adenovirus vectors. We have derived these vectors from strains isolated from non-human primates, which prevents them from being recognised by pre-existing neutralising antibodies in humans. This ground-breaking approach overcomes the major limitation of first-generation vectors, opening the door to the development of important new vaccines.

We now understand that the spectacular past successes of vaccines were based on the protective action of antibodies. Unfortunately, for chronic infectious diseases and possibly cancer, vaccines exclusively based on the humoral response are largely ineffective. We believe that, during the next decade, a new generation of T-cell based vaccines will become the major medical contribution in the fight against infectious disease.” 

Riccardo Cortese, Chief Executive Officer, Okairos