In light of a recent increase in avian influenza outbreaks in China, Protein Sciences Corporation announced that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, has requested that the company develop two new vaccine candidates for influenza A(H7N9), according to a press release.
The request was made under a multimillion dollar contract that BARDA awarded to Protein Sciences in September. According to a recent MMWR, there have been 1,258 cases of influenza A(H7N9) in China since the virus emerged in the region in 2013. Researchers discovered that H7N9 has split into two distinct lineages, one of which is highly pathogenic and shows reduced susceptibility to existing vaccines. In response, WHO has recommended the development of two new vaccines for each strain for pandemic preparedness purposes, the release said.
According to the release, Protein Sciences’ recombinant technology enables the company to produce vaccines in approximately 12 to 16 weeks vs. the typical 16 to 20 weeks.
“Our technology puts us in the unique position to deliver vaccines early,” Manon Cox, president and CEO of Protein Sciences, said in the release. “Since our vaccines can be made from a genetic code and do not require handling of the pathogenic virus, production can be started 3 to 6 months earlier than manufacturers who have to wait for acceptable starting materials and safety clearance. Furthermore, we expect to have a very large increase in FDA-approved production capacity for the manufacturing of [the] pandemic vaccine available later this year. The ultimate goal is to have [the] vaccine ready before the demand for health care service is at its peak during a pandemic. Egg-based manufacturing does not allow for that fast turnaround time.”
Cox is an employee of Protein Sciences.