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A grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will advance PnuVax’s pneumonia vaccine’s clinical development and biomanufacturing scale-up using a low-cost manufacturing approach.
PnuVax announced in an Oct. 2, 2017 press release that it received a $29.4-million (CND 36-million) grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop and clinically evaluate PnuVax’s pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Milestone payments will be received over the next three years as the vaccine progresses from process development through to biomanufacturing scale-up and proof-of-concept clinical trials.
Despite the current commercial availability of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, pneumonia remains the single leading cause of death for children under five years of age worldwide, according to the press release. “Children are still dying of preventable diseases such as pneumonia worldwide, largely due to high dosage costs and supply shortages that can thwart delivery to developing countries,” said PnuVax cofounder Jonas Elliott Gerson in the release.
PnuVax’s vaccine provides coverage against multiple serotypes, or distinct variations, of the pneumonia-causing pneumococcus bacterium. Use of PnuVax’s patented conjugation platform technology to produce the vaccine is expected to speed up biomanufacturing and increase yield for a reduced per-dose cost. PnuVax plans to manufacture its vaccine in Montreal, Canada, to be distributed to the developing world via Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Unicef.
“Creating a healthy marketplace for vaccines is crucial to our efforts to protect every child through immunization,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in the release. “That’s why this grant to a potential new and innovative supplier is so important. Gavi has now helped 58 countries to introduce pneumococcal vaccine since our support started in 2009, and coverage is steadily increasing. This vaccine is at the forefront of our fight against pneumonia."
Donald F. Gerson, PnuVax CEO, said in the release: “PnuVax is delighted to partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and evaluate this needed vaccine during our upcoming early-stage clinical trials. Once licensed, this vaccine is expected to increase supply of low-cost pneumococcal conjugate vaccine on a global scale.”
In addition to aiding the international community, PnuVax also intends to provide this vaccine to Canadians at a reduced cost, especially those in communities most in need. According to the press release, pneumonia remains a significant problem in many of Canada’s northern communities.
PnuVax’s platform technology can be used in the manufacture of vaccines for a broad range of infectious diseases. Prior to the current funding, PnuVax received grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014 and 2015 for the preclinical development of its vaccine.