U.S. Army, Hawaii Biotech join for dengue vaccine effort

Seeking a dengue fever vaccine that can offer broad protection in a short time, the U.S. Army has awarded Hawaii Biotech a Phase I contract to support the company's work against the "potentially mission-aborting" disease, according to a press release.

Through the deal, Hawaii Biotech will develop and test novel adjuvants to enhance an inactivated dengue vaccine candidate. In contrast with current candidates that offer partial protection and require several months to protect, Hawaii Biotech said its ambition is to develop a vaccine that protects against the virus fully and in a shorter time. It's anticipated to be used by international travelers and military personnel deployed in tropical regions.

That differs from the leading dengue candidate, Hawaii Biotech CEO Elliot Parks told KHON2, which is best suited for those who have already been exposed to the virus. His company's vaccine, instead, is for people who have never been exposed, he said.

Upon completion of Phase I, the company will be eligible to apply for Phase II funding to continue work on its candidate.

After seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009, Hawaii Biotech reorganized and emerged in 2011, according to releases. It announced two Ebola vaccine collaborations in May and the receipt of an NIAID anthrax antitoxin grant last year. In another tropical disease area, the company is planning to resume Phase I/II testing on its West Nile virus vaccine candidate prior to the 2016 West Nile virus season, Parks told FierceVaccines in May. He added that the company is seeking a partner with the reach to address the virus "wherever it is in the world."

In dengue, Hawaii Biotech trails Sanofi ($SNY), which is in the process of launching its decades-in-development shot in dozens of countries, and Takeda, which analysts have predicted could be stealing market share by 2020. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Merck ($MRK) are further off with their candidates.

- here's the release
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