Project Lead(s): Jean-Simon Diallo
Due to high costs and worldwide production limitations, access to vaccines remains a challenge for developing countries, particularly during pandemics (such as was recently experienced with influenza H1N1).
There is a long incubation time for production of vaccines, leading to shortages during pandemics.
The goal of the project was to reduce the time taken for vaccine production by using cell cultures.
The team set out initially to use novel, previously discovered virus-sensitizer compounds to improve the growth of influenza vaccine, using a suspension cell bioreactor system. They used a high-efficiency influenza vaccine manufacturing process, by combining HEK293 suspension cell culture bioreactor technology with viral sensitizers.
The objective was to show proof of concept in this system locally, with the help of collaborators in Montreal, and to build bridges with collaborators and vaccine manufacturers in developing countries that would be in a position to adopt the technology on the ground.
The objective was then to directly provide developing countries with technology that reliably and cost-effectively produces large quantities of influenza vaccines.
The study showed that the viral sensitizers could augment the growth of attenuated influenza and another unrelated vaccine (MVA) over 10-fold in continuous adherent cell cultures more frequently used by the industry such as Vero, BHK21 and MRC-5.
Because the vaccine sector is highly regulated, there remain several hurdles before the technology can be adopted by vaccine manufacturers around the world.
The main priority is to demonstrate that, in addition to being effective, this technology is safe and suitable to make vaccines for human use, based on the criteria laid out by regulatory agencies.
The roadmap for bringing the innovation to scale involves leveraging the current research agreement with Sanofi-Pasteur and incorporating additional smart partners, such as ATMI (macrocarrier bioreactors) and other companies in low- and middle-income countries, such as ZellTek in Argentina, in order to apply for Grand Challenges Canada’s Phase II Transition To Scale funding.
The team also aims to apply for Proof-of-Principle Phase II funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) using a similar approach.