Joint venture aims to develop advanced tuberculosis vaccine

OXFORD, England and ROCKVILLE, Md. —The University of Oxford and Emergent BioSolutions Inc. announced July 23, 2008, that they have formed the Oxford-Emergent Tuberculosis Consortium Ltd. to further develop MVA85A, a vaccine candidate for the prevention of tuberculosis.

The University of Oxford, through its technology transfer office, Isis Innovation Ltd., has exclusively licensed the MVA85A tuberculosis vaccine candidate and related technology to the consortium.

The Consortium will work with the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation to evaluate the efficacy of MVA85A in infants in a Phase IIb clinical trial anticipated to begin in 2009. The trial will take place at a clinical trial site developed by Aeras and the University of Cape Town’s South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative in Worcester, South Africa.

The consortium has secured approximately $16 million from the Wellcome Trust and the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation to fund this Phase IIb trial.

Under agreements with the consortium, Emergent BioSolutions has the rights to commercialize the MVA85A vaccine. The Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation will have distribution rights in the developing world.

The MVA85A vaccine candidate is designed to work in tandem with the Bacille Calmette Guerin vaccine (BCG), which is currently the only available vaccine against tuberculosis. BCG is administered to infants throughout the developing world and in certain countries in the developed world. However, BCG provides only variable protection against pulmonary tuberculosis and is not effective in adults.

The MVA85A vaccine candidate is intended to augment the response of T-cells already primed by the BCG vaccine. Clinical trials to date have demonstrated consistently high cellular immune responses in those who received the MVA85A vaccine candidate following vaccination with BCG.

The MVA85A vaccine has been awarded orphan drug status by the European Medicines Agency.

“I am excited by the prospect of further development of this promising vaccine candidate,” said Dr. Helen McShane of the University’s Jenner Institute. She developed the vaccine at the University of Oxford, working with Dr. Sarah Gilbert and Professor Adrian Hill, a Wellcome Trust principal research fellow.

“Curbing tuberculosis is a pressing global health priority,” McShane said, “and if achieved could save the lives of millions. We at Oxford have selected Emergent BioSolutions as our commercial partner given their vaccine development experience and dedication to bringing lifesaving vaccines to market.”

Tuberculosis is the world’s second leading cause of death from infectious disease in adults, after HIV/AIDS, according to the World Health Organization.