By Manon M.J. Cox, CEO, Matrivax
Vaccines have historically been a challenging corner of the industry, as they are highly-regulated and require a greater investment of time and money to develop than other biologics. However, several factors, such as high prevalence of disease, government initiatives encouraging immunization, and technological advancements are creating new growth opportunities in the vaccine market. Many vaccines today, though, are still made using 60-year-old technology, despite the availability of modern technology to improve the quality and speed of manufacturing of vaccines. The impact of this was evident during disease outbreaks over the last decade caused by emerging viruses, including some with pandemic potential, such as SARS Coronavirus, MERS, EBOLA and ZIKA. As these outbreaks occurred, the response time for a vaccine was slow, intensifying the need for a more effective biosecurity strategy.
Protein Sciences, a biotech company recently acquired by Sanofi Pasteur, recognized the need for a production platform that could quickly and effectively produce a vaccine in the case of a pandemic outbreak. Specifically, Protein Sciences targeted a vaccine for influenza, a virus causing record-breaking levels of illness and hospitalization rates over the last several years. The result of their efforts was the FDA approval of the recombinant hemagglutinin (rHA) influenza vaccine, Flublok®, created with the established baculovirus-insect cell expression technology (BEST). Through its experience, Protein Sciences learned several valuable lessons during the development and final regulatory approval of the vaccine.