Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., to develop Avian flu vaccine

Officials with Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., and Temasek Life Science Ventures recently announced a joint agreement to develop a vaccine to protect humans from strains of H5 influenza, or Avian flu.

Under the joint venture, the companies plan to begin manufacturing the broad spectrum vaccine candidate in 2011. Clinical trials are set to begin in 2012, company officials said.

One feature of the planned vaccine candidate will be the incorporation of three H5HA antigens from divergent H5 strains within a single candidate, including the Vietnam strain. Other features include cell culture based manufacturing that will not be dependent on chicken eggs, enabling long term long term stability, which officials hope will allow for bulk vaccine stockpiling.

Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., president and CEO Daniel J. Abdun-Nabi said he thinks the joint venture will be extremely beneficial.

“This joint venture will bring additional breadth and depth to Emergent's product pipeline that will enable us to further our company mission -- to protect life,” Abdun-Nabi said. “EPIC BIO's viability and success will be anchored on TLV's extensive experience in cutting-edge research combined with Emergent's core competencies in product development, manufacturing, and commercialization.”

Peter Chia, Temasek's CEO, agreed.

“We are pleased to form EPIC BIO with Emergent BioSolutions, an organization focused on biologics that have a positive impact on public health,” Chia said. “The complementary strengths of our organizations will allow us to accelerate efforts to develop and commercialize much needed pandemic influenza vaccines and therapeutics.”

Avian influenza, or "bird flu", is a contagious disease caused by viruses that normally infect only birds and, sometimes, pigs. Avian viruses are normally species-specific. They have, on occasion, crossed the species barrier to infect humans. Over 400 cases of H5N1 have been reported since 2003 with 60 percent fatality rate. Seventy-three new cases were reported in 2009.