GSK, Alnylam team to speed vaccine production

Evidence of advances to speed up vaccine manufacturing--a wish-list item for governments around the world wanting to establish national disease-protection programs--appeared on two fronts this week. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has allied with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ($ALNY) for development of the latter's RNA interference (RNAi) technology with GSK vaccines. In addition, PharmAthene ($PIP) has announced advances in its SparVax anthrax vaccine, which is being developed for rapid manufacturing scale-up.

In the GSK/Alnylam deal, the U.K.-based Big Pharma wants to apply VaxiRNA--Alnylam's RNAi platform for producing the viruses used in vaccine manufacturing--to its existing cell-culture production processes used in making influenza and other shots. It will provide Alnylam with research funding and additional payments if the collaboration is successful, according to an announcement.

Alnylam said in the release that RNAi, which can silence genes that limit or prevent virus growth, boosts the speed of vaccine production in both cell- and egg-based production systems. Lengthy production time is commonly the limiting factor in pandemic protection efforts.

Separately, PharmAthene said it had completed its first cGMP commercial-scale manufacturing run of SparVax, its recombinant anthrax vaccine. Analytical testing is under way and expected to be completed next month.

PharmAthene is developing the vaccine to provide rapid manufacturing scale-up for response to national security emergencies. The work is supported by the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

- here's the GSK/Alnylam announcement
- see the PharmaAthene release

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