BRISBANE, Calif. – Vaccine specialist VaxGen recently announced a collaborative effort with privately held biotechnology company EndoBiologics International to pursue research into a vaccine that targets meningitis B, a bacterial disease that targets children and can lead to mental retardation, loss of limbs, and even death. According to Atlanta's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meningitis attacks approximately 1 in every 100,000 people worldwide, but regional epidemics can kill tens of thousands of people.
Under the agreement, VaxGen will fund proof-of-concept research performed using Missoula-Mont.-based EndoBiologics' technologies and has exclusive options to continue product development should the studies prove fruitful.
"VaxGen is evaluating technologies and vaccine/biologics approaches on an ongoing basis to strengthen its current development pipeline," says Dr. Kathrin Jansen, senior VP of R&D at VaxGen. "There is a tremendous medical need for a vaccine preventing Meningitis B infections and disease. EndoBiologics has developed a technology that has the potential for development of a MenB vaccine candidate."
She adds that a meningitis B vaccine will broaden and balance VaxGen's current development pipeline, which is currently focused on vaccines to counter bioterrorism threats.
Representatives from Endo-Biologics could not be reached for comment, but in a prepared statement, Dr. Gary Gustafson, company president and CEO said: "VaxGen's long-standing interest in and understanding of meningitis B, coupled with their experience in product development and manufacturing, made them the ideal partner for us. Endo-Biologics believes it has developed a novel and promising technology, and we are pleased to be working with VaxGen to determine if we can bring it to the next stage of development."
"EndoBiologics, however, has found a method of producing the antigenic sugar in Dictyostelium discoideum, an organism that produces a detoxifying enzyme that naturally modifies LOS. By removing certain portions of the chemical structure, called fatty acids, Dictyostelium leaves behind only the sugar portion of the molecule, making the molecule detoxified. The companies hope that the detoxified LOS, when conjugated to a carrier protein, will serve as a good vaccine candidate.
According to Dr. Jansen, EndoBiologics will provide its expertise in the platform technology and chemistry. VaxGen will be involved in studying the biology and immunology of the potential vaccine candidate(s). If these proof-of-concepts studies are successful, VaxGen will be responsible for the preclinical and clinical development and licensure of the vaccine.
Should VaxGen exercise its option to further develop the candidate, it will provide milestone payments and additional research funding to the biotechnology company. Likewise, in the event of regulatory approval and commercial sale of the vaccine, VaxGen will provide Endo-Biologics royalty and additional milestone payments.