Saturday, February 27, 2010

Changing the game in vaccine research

In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal
Leaders of the Texas Plant-Expressed Vaccine Consortium today announced a biotherapeutic manufacturing initiative designed to show proof of concept for a landmark new technology that could dramatically increase the nation’s capability to produce vaccines for infectious diseases, including influenza.
We have a Texas Plant-Expressed Vaccine Consortium? Where have they been before now? Vision 1920 wonders if this is a new operation or if it has been around since A&M lost Charles Arntzen's project to express vaccines in bananas to Cornell. Or since A&Ms partnership with ProdiGene ran aground.
Project GreenVax, which utilizes tobacco plants rather than the current egg-based vaccine technology, holds the promise of shortening vaccine production to a fraction of the current time, allowing rapid response to newly emerging viruses not possible with current technology. The majority of funding for the project is provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
“Project GreenVax and the NCTM are game-changers. They have the potential to transform not just vaccine production, but the entire biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry,” said Dr. Brett Giroir, vice chancellor for research for the A&M System and executive director of the Institute for Innovative Therapeutics (IIT), the newly established institute representing the partnership between the system’s multiple state-of-the-art research facilities.
Bayer Cropsciences has already taken similar technology to phase 1 clinical trials. G-Con's team had some connection to the Bayer system, but it seems like there was a complex combination of collaboration and competition involved. G-Con's founder was with Large Scale Biology, which didn't lose...they just ran out of time.

Expect the potbangers to quibble about whether Project Greenvax is really game changing. But maybe that's not the game Dr. Giroir, who brings his DARPA connections to A&M, is talking about.

In other vaccine news:
In a move touted as by many experts as questionable at best, PharmAthene has seen millions of dollars added to a 2003 contract without competing for it.

PharmAthene, which held closes ties to the late Congressman John Murtha and current DHS Under Secretary Tara O'Toole, was originally awarded the contract by BARDA. This new influx of money is part of a 2008 HHS request for a proposal for a second-generation anthrax vaccine.

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