- Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded Protein Sciences a contract to produce pandemic flu vaccines using the company’s vaccine manufacturing platform. The technology should help speed up production of vaccines in response to pandemic threats.
- The contract could be worth $610 million through to 2021 if BARDA exercises all options.
- The funds will be used for preparation of starting materials for pandemic vaccines and the technology could shave as much as a month off development, claims the comapny.
Protein Sciences’ technology, according to the company, can make influenza vaccines “with unprecedented speed, safety and precision” and “ensures the country will be prepared with sufficient supplies of vaccine in a timely manner should an influenza pandemic strike.” The company uses cell cultures instead of eggs to make their vaccines. Because the process uses cell cultures, it can deliver higher levels of antigens.
Flublok was approved by the FDA in January 2013. The company also has a recombinant pandemic influenza vaccine in Phase 2 studies. The money will also come in handy for the development of its pipeline of vaccines including Zika and SARS.
"We are very pleased to extend our relationship with BARDA and support them in their mission to provide 'More, Faster, Better' vaccines in the face of a pandemic. Prior support from BARDA was critical in the development and scale-up of our technology, which is now the only platform that is used to manufacture an FDA-approved vaccine (i.e., Flublok) and can address a pandemic in time," said Protein Sciences President and CEO Dr. Menon Cox.
Though it may not reach the full $610 million, this funding could come at a very useful time for Protein Sciences, as it builds up the sales for its still relatively new Flublok seasonal flu vaccine. Seasonal flu is an area where you have to pile it high and sell at cost-effective and competitive prices, and the company’s sales haven’t been as high as hoped, according to the Hartford Courant in November 2015.
Vaccination is crucial in the fight against the threat of pandemics, particularly for workers in critical roles, for the elderly, and for people with poor health or chronic diseases. However, there are challenges in ensuring that there are enough stocks of the right vaccines in the right places. Pandemic flu can strike fast, but using existing technologies it can take six months or more and an awful lot of fertilized chicken’s eggs to create a vaccine from scratch for a new strain of influenza virus, and to build up its stocks. Added to this there is the difficulty in selecting the right subtype of virus, and the risk that it might mutate while the vaccine in in the rather protracted manufacturing process.