Joint venture fights TB with vaccine candidate

When researchers at Oxford University took their development of a vaccine candidate against tuberculosis as far as they could, they found a commercial partner in Emergent BioSolutions.

The Oxford-Emergent Tuberculosis Consortium Ltd. was formed with the aim of taking MVA85A through the later stages of clinical development against the worldwide pandemic.

“Treating tuberculosis is difficult and a drain on precious health care resources,” said Dr. Stephen Lockhart, the senior vice president of product development at Emergent BioSolutions.

If its clinical trial is successful, he said MVA85A could have a significant impact in bringing tuberculosis under control even in the poorest countries.

There are almost 2 million TB-related deaths worldwide each year, Lockhart pointed out.

“The team at Oxford University,” he said, “knows a great deal about tuberculosis and this vaccine candidate, while Emergent has a significant amount of experience in both manufacturing and product development.

“The bottom line is that this consortium brings together complementary sets of expertise and diverse vested interests. The whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts.”

Lockhart said Oxford University needed a partner with expertise in manufacturing, product formulation and vaccine commercialization to move work on the vaccine candidate forward into the later stages of clinical development.

That vaccine, MVA85A, is in a Phase II-B clinical trial in South Africa that began in 2009. Results are expected in 2011-12.

“Oxford found the joint venture with Emergent attractive because it provided the ability to retain significant input and involvement in the development of the vaccine,” he said. “Oxford has world-leading cellular immunology and TB clinical expertise that is critical to MVA85A development.

“Emergent brings expertise in MVA manufacturing, product development and managing clinical trials to the partnership, but required Oxford’s deep and comprehensive understanding of the clinical stages of TB.”

Lockhart said the mission of Emergent BioSolutions is "protecting life."

“The decision to engage in TB vaccine development was a fitting expansion within our infectious disease focus having worked on products and product candidates for anthrax disease, typhoid and Chlamydia.”

The Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation will receive rights to distribute the vaccine in the developing world at a reduced cost.

“Aeras, funded by the Gates Foundation and others, has been working for many years to develop sites where manufacturers can undertake trials on new tuberculosis vaccines,” Lockhart said.

“Oxford University was already working with Aeras when the joint venture was formed and it seems sensible to continue to work together. The Wellcome Trust has also been supporting this clinical trial work.

“We all have the same aims, to develop a vaccine that can prevent tuberculosis, so collaboration seems appropriate.”