(New Delhi, 25 January 2011) -- The MSD Wellcome Trust Hilleman Laboratories announced today that the organization's first project will be a feasibility study into how new technologies might be used to develop a rotavirus vaccine designed specifically with developing country needs in mind. Formulations based on dissolving thin strips or granules will be examined for their potential to improve product stability, ease of use, transportation and affordability. The therapeutic focus of the project has been selected because of the tremendous global impact of rotavirus diarrhea on childhood mortality. If the initial study is successful, options to further develop the technology for rotavirus and other oral vaccines of importance to developing country health will be explored.
"Many first-generation vaccines have not been developed with the specific needs of countries with poor infrastructure for vaccine delivery in mind. This is a much needed exploration of how to tackle one of the greatest public health and logistics challenges in the developing world -- distributing life-saving vaccines without the requirement for large bulk shipments, expensive warehousing and costly, difficult-to-maintain refrigerated shipping paths from the manufacturing plant to the patient," says Hilleman Laboratories Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Altaf A. Lal.
The project is a collaboration among the Hilleman Laboratories, MSD and Medicine in Need (MEND), an international non-profit organization specializing in the application of advanced vaccine formulation technologies. For this feasibility study, MEND is providing the formulation technology and MSD is providing components of its existing rotavirus vaccine.
"With developing country needs in mind, we are targeting heat stability, ease of administration, package size, and cost of goods as key features of the product," said Dr. Akshay Goel, Chief Scientific Officer at Hilleman Laboratories.
"MEND's mission is to formulate life-saving vaccines in ways that allow their availability and sustainability to the impoverished populations who need them most," said Dr. Andrew Schiermeier, CEO at MEND. "Our collaboration with Hilleman Labs and the MSD vaccines group provides an excellent opportunity to leverage the technical expertise of the different groups with the aim of creating a product that will be far-better suited for developing country needs."
"This technology has the potential to be a real game changer in vaccine development and delivery," said Dr. David Heymann, Chairman of the UK's Health Protection Agency who also chairs the Strategic Advisory Group of the Hilleman Laboratories. "This kind of R&D is needed to make effective vaccines available in resource limited countries, so that they can be more easily used to decrease the impact of vaccine preventable diseases. There is tremendous synergy in bringing together the philanthropic, scientific and business prowess of these organizations and their funders to benefit so many of the world's poorest."
The World Health Organization estimates that annually from 10 percent up to 50 percent of vaccines may be wasted globally because of temperature control, shipping, and other logistical issues.
"Although a potential vaccine coming out of the Hilleman Laboratories would be for global needs, nearly 100,000 rotavirus deaths each year occur in India," said Dr. M. K. Bhan, Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology. "The Hilleman Laboratories effort to extend the utility of rotavirus vaccine in poor countries is to be welcomed."