Nav: Home

MIT undertakes grand challenge for innovation in global vaccine manufacturing

February 22, 2017

Vaccines are among the most transformative and successful outcomes of modern medicine. For countries fortunate enough to have immunization coverage, their value can also lower or avert healthcare costs, increase economic productivity, and reduce poverty. The cost of producing and distributing vaccines to lower income countries still limits their availability to much of the world's population, however.

Despite recent improvements in global vaccine coverage, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 21.8 million infants worldwide did not receive complete basic immunizations in 2013. Further, of the 5.2 million deaths annually among children under the age of five, nearly one-third are preventable by vaccines. Incomplete vaccine coverage results from a number of factors, including limited resources, poor health system management, competing health priorities, and inadequate monitoring. Beyond these factors, procuring manufactured vaccines at suitable costs is an essential requirement. A substantial reduction in the cost to manufacture vaccines could help promote affordable, equitable, and sustainable immunization on a global scale, while also enabling manufacturers to develop sustainable business models around such products.

To address this manufacturing challenge, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $17.6 million Grand Challenge grant to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University College London (UCL) and Kansas University (KU) to pursue an innovative research project for global health to create a next-generation manufacturing platform to produce certain vaccines for less than 15 cents a dose. The project entitled "Ultra-low cost, Transferable Automated (ULTRA) Platform for Vaccine Manufacture," aims to standardize the manufacturing development and production of new protein-based vaccines at globally affordable costs.

Challenge accepted

ULTRA seeks to reduce facility-related costs by combining a small physical footprint with reduced operational costs enabled by an integrated automation of the manufacturing process, to minimize labor costs and failure rates. At the heart of this endeavor is a strategic focus on recombinant protein vaccines, which rely on purified elements of a bacteria or virus to elicit immunologic protection. The manufacturing platform will accommodate chemistry, manufacturing and control (CMC) development for a diverse range of components for recombinant vaccines that target diseases like Hepatitis B, HIV, HPV (an extensible risk for cervical cancer), malaria, rotavirus and future vaccine candidates. The integrated production platform aims to produce and purify these proteins using a combination of engineered microbial cell factories and flexible approaches for purification to accommodate different vaccines and future candidates. Such manufacturing models currently exist for some biopharmaceuticals like antibody-based therapies Today, however, solutions to manufacturing are unique for each vaccine.

"In the same ways that industry today enjoys platform manufacturing for monoclonal antibodies, we envision a new platform for current and future recombinant vaccines," said J. Christopher Love, an MIT associate professor of chemical engineering, a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and lead investigator for the MIT team. "ULTRA should ultimately empower both a broad discovery portfolio and streamlined commercial development."

Strength in numbers

The collaboration among the academic institutions will highlight each of their strengths and expertise to develop the exciting and innovative platform. The Love laboratory, for example, brings a wide range of experience in platform-based technology development, including on-going work under the DARPA-funded Bio-MOD program, which aims to enable systems for manufacturing on-demand. They are joined in the ULTRA effort by MIT professors Richard Braatz, the Edward R. Gilliland Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Kripa Varanasi, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Additional academic partners on the ULTRA program include Dr. Tarit K. Mukhopadhyay and professors Suzanne Farid and Daniel G. Bracewell from UCL and Kansas University professor David B. Volkin and Dr. Sangeeta Joshi.

The three partner academic institutions will work in tandem to develop the vaccine strains, integrated manufacturing process, and economic models to ensure that ULTRA can achieve costs of less than 15 cents a dose. If successful, this method will be tested at scale by an industrial partner who will generate clinical-grade material for a Phase 1 trial at the end of this five-year grant.

"It's an honor to take on this important challenge with the support of this team of world-class academics," said Love. "Together, we are committed to the global access of a powerful new approach for manufacturing low-cost vaccines."
-end-
Learn more about the Grand Challenges Initiatives, Projects and Grantees at gcgh.grandchallenges.org.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Related Vaccines Articles:

Understanding T cell activation could lead to new vaccines
Scientists could be one step closer to developing vaccines against viruses such as Zika, West Nile or HIV, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.
Vaccines do work for pandemic flu, says study
Vaccines are successful in preventing pandemic flu and reducing the number of patients hospitalized as a result of the illness, a study led by academics at the University of Nottingham has found.
Research could lead to better vaccines and new antivirals
Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have identified a new regulator of the innate immune response -- the immediate, natural immune response to foreign invaders.
Toward opioid vaccines that can help prevent overdose fatalities
In 2014, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses in the US jumped to its highest level on record.
New, more effective strategy for producing flu vaccines
A team of researchers led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, professor of pathobiological sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, has developed technology that could improve the production of vaccines that protect people from influenza B.
A method for storing vaccines at room temperature
Several simple and inexpensive techniques make it possible to store antiviral-vaccines at room temperature for several months.
Engineers design programmable RNA vaccines
MIT engineers have designed programmable RNA vaccines that could be rapidly manufactured and deployed.
Zika vaccines protect mice from infection
A single dose of either of two experimental Zika vaccines fully protected mice challenged with Zika virus four or eight weeks after receiving the inoculations.
Can we hypercharge vaccines?
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital report that a fatty chemical naturally found in damaged tissues can induce an unexpected kind of immune response, causing immune cells to go into a 'hyperactive' state that is highly effective at rallying infection-fighting T-cells.
Vaccines: Don't leave home without them
While Americans should be fully vaccinated before travelling internationally to avoid infection with highly contagious diseases such as measles and hepatitis A, many are not, suggest two studies being presented at IDWeek 2015™.

Related Vaccines Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".