Horizon, Pirbright partner to support vaccine yield research

Partnership extends Horizon’s biomanufacturing capabilities into vaccines.

April 12, 2018

2 Min Read
Horizon, Pirbright partner to support vaccine yield research

Horizon Discovery Group PLC, a global leader in the application of gene editing and gene modulation to deliver inspired cell solutions, announced that it has extended its biomanufacturing capabilities through an agreement with The Pirbright Institute in the U.K. to jointly work on a research program aimed at deploying cell engineering to increase the yields of livestock vaccines.

The development of efficient and affordable vaccines against viral diseases plays an important role in meeting the rapidly growing demand in the so-called "ag-bio" market, where global production is persistently reduced through viral infection and where the consequences of an outbreak can be devastating, Horizon said.

Horizon interim chief executive officer and chief financial officer Richard Vellacott said, “As a global leader in the application of gene editing to harness the power of the cell, Horizon is transforming the life sciences both in human biology and beyond. We are now extending our biomanufacturing expertise into the agriculture market, where there is an acute need to protect and improve yields, driven by a rapidly growing global population and increasing environmental pressures. We are pleased to partner with The Pirbright Institute in this project, which promises to have a significant impact on vulnerable populations worldwide.”

Many vaccines are produced in avian systems, both in hens' eggs and — increasingly — in cultured cells. However, yields are often limited by immune responses that can prevent the replication of vaccine viruses. The Pirbright Institute was the first to describe a set of immune proteins in chickens, called chIFITMs, that interfere with viral replication in cells.

Pirbright has now received a grant from the Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund — which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Affairs Canada and Canada’s International Development Research Centre — to focus on the practical development of this research.

Horizon will use its expertise in CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to remove the chIFITM genes in chicken cells, thereby overcoming one of the main barriers for viral replication, with the potential to boost the levels of vaccine virus produced by five- to ten-fold.

Vaccines produced in avian systems represent an approximately $3.4 billion market, Horizon reported, noting that a significant increase in yield may lead to a substantial decrease in manufacturing costs and pricing.

The project is set to run for four years, and this new technology could be commercially available by 2021.

Dr. Mark Fife, research lead and head of the genetics and genomics group at Pirbright, said, “The increase in yield sought from this project will make vaccines cheaper to produce and more accessible to livestock owners in developing nations. We will first focus on increasing (influenza) vaccine yields, but the technique can be applied to multiple livestock viral diseases and, potentially, human diseases as well. Once this technique, for which a patent application has been filed, has been successfully piloted, The Pirbright Institute intends to work with commercial partners, such as Horizon Discovery, who will help bring this new technology to market."

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