The Austin Business Journal’s Chad Swiatecki reports that University of Texas at Austin scientists and commerce specialists are hoping that a technique developed at the school to enhance vaccine effectiveness could pay in the form of licensing fees from vaccine-manufacturing pharmaceutical firms like British multinational pharmaceutical, biologics, vaccines and consumer healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK).
Swiatecki notes that state and federally-funded research by UT Austin Professor Stephen Trent of the university’s Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology has yielded a process for harvesting a component of E. coli bacteria that can be added to vaccines to catalyze stronger immune system reactions in patients, and that UT’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) has invested upwards of $40,000 for a patent application for Dr. Trent’s work, and submitted a prospectus to pharmaceutical companies in hope of securing a licensing agreement. The commercial potential for the research is huge, with the worldwide market for vaccines reaching $31.8 billion in 2011 and expected to grow to $40 billion by 2018.
The article says OTC officials hope to draw interest from GlaxoSmithKline in particular because the company uses the same E. coli components in its Cervarix vaccine and several others, and cites Dr. Trent saying the process he and his team have developed is faster, cheaper and has lower risk of toxic contamination, and OTC’s director of physical science licensing Les Nichols saying industry data estimates $1.5 billion Cervarix revenues in 2014. Dr. Trent’s work was also featured in detail last month in the Austin American-Statesman. However, Business Journal’s Swiatecki reports that while Dr. Trent had hoped that that GlaxoSmithKline would jump to license his technology, they had not by press time.
On his UT Austin Website, Dr. Trent notes that in order to survive, bacteria must quickly respond to changes in the surrounding environment. He and his team are interested in how diverse environmental stimuli promote changes in conserved microbial structures found on the surface of pathogenic bacteria, and explains that currently, his laboratory focuses on the remodeling of lipopolysaccharides or LPS.
He observes that LPS, also referred to as endotoxin, is the major surface component of Gram-negative bacteria and represents one of the microbial molecular signals responsible for activation of the host innate immune system. “Our goal is to identify and characterize the molecular mechanisms necessary for the remodeling of LPS, and to determine how alteration of LPS contributes to evasion of the innate immune response during infection. Several pathogenic bacteria are under investigation in our laboratory including Vibrio cholerae, Campylobacter jejuni, Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella typhimurium, and pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli. Understanding how bacteria remodel their cell surface is of fundamental importance and may yield new therapeutic strategies for intervention in bacterial infections.”
GlaxoSmithKline has entered into partnerships with several Texas universities. Last May, BioNews Texas reported that GSK had been awarded up to $200 million by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in a first-of-its-kind collaboration to develop several new antibiotics to counter threats of antibiotic resistance and bioterrorism.
GSK, which describes itself as “one of the few large pharmaceutical companies still pursuing antibacterial research,” already had contracts with BARDA and other agencies for vaccines and antibiotics development, but that public-private agreement marked the first time that HHS had taken a “portfolio approach” to funding drug development with a private sector company, an arrangement that with the advantage of flexibility to move funding around GSK’s antibacterial portfolio rather than focusing on just one drug candidate, and allow medicines to be studied for the potential treatment of both conventional and bioterror threat pathogens. Under terms of the agreement, HHS will provide GSK with $40 million in funding for its initial 18 months, and subsequently up to a total of $200 million if the agreement is renewed over five years.
GSK is an industry leader in government research collaborations and as noted has had other contracts with BARDA and other agencies for vaccines and antibiotics development. In March, 2013, the Texas A&M System and GlaxoSmithKline received U.S. government approval for establishment of an influenza vaccine facility in Texas to develop and manufacture GSK’s next generation influenza vaccines to be kept in readiness against global pandemics. The $91 million influenza-vaccines manufacturing operation will anchor Texas A&M‘s Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) at Bryan-College Station.
At the March 26, 2013 project announcement, Texas Governor Rick Perry said: “Today’s announcement is a huge win for Texas and for the nation. The Texas A&M Center, anchored by this facility, is expected to bring more than $41 billion in expenditures within the State of Texas over the next 25 years, and will add more than 6,800 direct and related jobs to Texas.”
Last April, we reported that the new Texas A&M/GlaxoSmithKline Influenza-Vaccines Facility Positioned Texas at at the vanguard of U.S. flu pandemic-preparedness efforts. GSK Vaccines produces 30 vaccines worldwide, eleven of which are licensed by the FDA, and the Texas A&M-GSK venture will complement and support the company’s existing influenza vaccines operations, based in Quebec, Canada, and Dresden, Germany. GSK’s operations hub in Marietta, Pennsylvania will package, inspect and distribute influenza vaccine manufactured at the Texas A&M Center. In 2012, GSK provided more than 20 million flu shots for the U.S. market and recently became the first major U.S. vaccines provider to gain FDA-approval for a broader-protection, four-strain (quadrivalent) influenza vaccine shot i for the 2013-14 flu season.
For more coverage of GSK-related activities in Texas, visit:
University of Texas at Austin
The Austin Business Journal
Texas A&M University