CMC Biologics to manufacture antibodies for Malaria Vaccines Initiative

GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, got an EMA green light just last month, but it doesn't mean efforts to develop additional vaccines have halted. PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) is teaming up with protein manufacturer CMC Biologics to develop monoclonal antibodies that could inform future development of MVI's malaria candidates.

CMC Biologics will use its 2.012 accelerated monoclonal antibody development solution to help MVI accelerate the development of its vaccines, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. CMC is confident it can deliver material for MVI's preclinical and Phase I/II studies quickly--within 12 months, said Gustavo Mahler, CMC's global chief operations officer, in a statement.

"We chose CMC Biologics as our CMO partner for their sophisticated technical capabilities, successful track record in the industry, and speed of antibody development and production," said MVI's director, Ashley Birkett, in the statement.

Ashley Birkett, director of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative

Assuming all goes well in this initial study, Birkett said, MVI will evaluate other antibodies with "novel vaccine targets" to see how they fare in protecting humans against infection.

MVI won a $156 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November 2014. The funds went toward the development of two types of malaria vaccines: anti-infection vaccines, which prevent someone bitten by a mosquito carrying malaria parasites from falling ill, and transmission-blocking vaccines, which stop infected people from passing the parasites on to mosquitoes.

Even though GSK's Mosquirix is now awaiting a WHO policy recommendation for use in national immunization programs, it is far from a perfect vaccine. Certain challenges, such as being a multi-dose regimen and only conferring partial protection that wanes over time, make it only a partial solution in the fight against malaria. MVI's transmission-blocking vaccines have the potential to go where Mosquirix can't. But experts, Birkett included, caution against thinking a vaccine is a "magic bullet." There are many tools used to fight against malaria, including bed nets and pesticides, and vaccines are just another piece of the puzzle.

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