BENCHMARK Biolabs of Lincoln, Neb., and AgriLabs of St. Joseph, Mo., are working together to modernize how vaccines deliver antigens to prevent disease in food and companion animals.
In April, the two companies formed VaxLiant — a joint venture that offers a portfolio of ready-to-use and customizable adjuvants as well as technical and marketing expertise — to help streamline the vaccine development process.
"What this means is that vaccine companies now have access to several readily available adjuvants that provide never-seen-before flexibility in delivering antigens at a competitive price," Steve Schram, VaxLiant co-founder and AgriLabs chief executive officer, explained during Feedstuffs' recent visit to the VaxLiant office.
According to Schram, VaxLiant's unique antigen delivery formulations can be used to improve immune response and deliver novel technologies as scientists look for new ways to manage highly contagious trans-boundary diseases as well as to enhance vaccines used in conventional animal health programs.
Vaccine manufacturers also can use VaxLiant's adjuvants to develop next-generation biologics or enhance current vaccines, to differentiate vaccines by immune response and value, to bring vaccines to market more quickly or to help lower the cost of producing vaccines, he said.
VaxLiant's current ENABL portfolio of 15 ready-to-use adjuvants was developed specifically for use in cattle, pigs and poultry. The company also offers Biomize, a fully customizable antigen delivery system.
In addition, the recent publication of guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB) for licensing production platforms using recombinant DNA makes bringing to market an affordable ENABL vaccine that can combat highly contagious avian influenza possible within the next three years, said Dr. Tim Miller, president and chief science officer of Benchmark Biolabs and co-founder of VaxLiant.
"The new CVB guidelines identify the steps to take to receive approval of a 'production platform' — the process of consistently, safely manufacturing vaccines using recombinant DNA technology," Schram explained. "This means there is now a pathway for our vaccine platform to become USDA licensed — which can lead to vaccines for (avian influenza) and other emerging diseases that are more practical and affordable than today's options in about one-third of the time."
According to Miller, research shows that ENABL allows the DNA component of an avian influenza vaccine to remain intact and stable. It also provides higher levels of effectiveness against the avian influenza virus using about 70% less antigen, finally making production of an affordable vaccine possible to benefit poultry farmers everywhere.
The production platform is a breakthrough that can be used to fight not only avian influenza but also other devastating trans-boundary diseases, including foot and mouth disease and African swine fever, Miller said.
"Producing vaccines using the ENABL platform does not use live virus or animal origin material, which means manufacturers can produce vaccines to combat these highly contagious diseases safely," Miller explained. "This also means vaccinated birds and animals can be distinguished from non-vaccinates that are harboring the actual virus, so countries could finally allow the import and export of livestock and poultry given vaccines that include ENABL."
In its guidelines, CVB cited the importance of having an approach that allows governments and other organizations to respond more quickly to emerging diseases created by antigenic shift — the process of two or more strains of a virus, or different viruses, combining to form a new viral strain.
VaxLiant is headquartered at Benchmark Biolabs' facilities in Lincoln and will tap into the experience of employees from both parent companies.
Benchmark Biolabs has provided streamlined research-to-commercialization services since 1996.
AgriLabs has been marketing vaccines, nutritionals and other animal health products for more than 25 years.