iBio licences plant-based system for rapid vaccine production to
12 March 2010
iBio, Inc. (OTCBB:IBPM) has announced that it has agreed in
principle to license its iBioLaunch platform to G-Con, LLC, a private
Texas company, and its affiliates, for the development and manufacture
of plant-expressed influenza vaccines at a new facility being
constructed in Bryan, Texas.
The “GreenVax Project” will show proof of concept for a
large-scale vaccine production facility using Nicotiana
(tobacco) plants grown hydroponically in a contained environment.
The iBioLaunch platform uses transient gene expression in green
plants for superior efficiency in protein production. In contrast to
current methods of production, the iBio green plant technology
platform holds the promise of shortening vaccine production from
months to weeks and allowing rapid response to newly emerging
viruses not possible with conventional vaccine technology.
The method of production is to construct a “launch vector” of a
cDNA sequence that encodes the target protein cloned into a plant
viral gene expression vector. The launch vectors are introduced into
agrobacteria where they greatly multiply. The agrobacteria, carrying
their payload of launch vectors, are introduced into all aerial
parts of green plants in a growing facility by vacuum infiltration.
This process provides for near complete leaf coverage, increasing
the efficiency and speed of protein production. Once the plants have
been infiltrated with agrobacteria, the viral sequences of the
launch vectors along with the cloned target sequences are massively
amplified through virus replication.
Translation of these recombinant viral vector mRNAs in leaf and
stem tissue produces hundred milligram quantities of target protein
per kilogram of fresh plant tissue in less than a week. The
production method is termed 'transient expression' because the
target gene sequence is not incorporated into the plant chromosome
and thus does not result in the creation of transgenic plants.
Although the Project’s initial goal is to produce candidate H1N1
vaccines, iBio’s technology is highly adaptable to other influenza
strains, other infectious diseases, as well as cancer.
The iBioLaunch platform, the enabling technology for the GreenVax
Project, was developed by the Fraunhofer USA Center for Molecular
Biotechnology. The technology has been successfully applied to a
wide range of vaccine and therapeutic targets, and in addition to
the investments made by iBio, has attracted funding from the US
government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The iBioLaunch technology with its rapid response capability
provides a valuable alternative to traditional vaccine production
systems,” said Dr. Vidadi Yusibov, Executive Director of the
Fraunhofer USA Center for Molecular Biotechnology. “The GreenVax
Project is a significant step towards practical implementation of
the iBioLaunch technology.”
“This is a landmark new technology that could dramatically
increase the nation’s capability to produce vaccines for infectious
diseases, including influenza,” said Dr. Brett Giroir, vice
chancellor for research of the Texas A&M University System. Texas
A&M is a member of the GreenVax consortium.
“The flexibility of the plant-based system, combined with its low
cost and ability to massively scale, may provide vaccine protection
not only to citizens of the United States, but also to many parts of
the world that cannot currently afford vaccines,” said Dr. Barry
Holtz, President of G-Con.
“We expect vaccines against influenza, including seasonal
influenza, to be among the earliest applications of the iBioLaunch
technology,” said Robert Kay, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
of iBio. “In the new GreenVax facility, G-Con’s modular production
technology should significantly enhance the economy, speed and
flexibility advantages of our system for application to a broad
range of biologic products.”
Research and development for the GreenVax Project will occur on a
secure, 21-acre site on the campus of the Texas A&M Health Science
Center in Bryan, Texas. There will be a custom-designed,
145,000-square-foot bio-production facility that is being
constructed by G-Con. The facility has been optimized to achieve the
goals of this project, yet remains expandable as required without
interruption of core operations. The projected final scale capacity
of the facility is 100 million doses per month. Although there are
currently no approved plant-based flu vaccines, a clinical
development program for influenza vaccines produced with the
iBioLaunch platform is underway.