The Canadian-based pharmaceutical company plans to produce a low-cost, multi-strain coverage vaccine with the grant.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded PnuVax Incorporated, an organization dedicated to the production of biopharmaceuticals and vaccines, a $29.4 million grant to further investigate the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine it has been developing.
The grant will be given in milestone payments over the next 3 years as the progress of the vaccine moves forward from biomanufacturing into proof-of-concept trials. The vaccine could come as a relief, as pneumonia remains the leading cause of death for children under 5 worldwide.
“Children are still dying of preventable diseases such as pneumonia worldwide, largely due to high dosage costs and supply shortages that can thwart delivery to developing countries,” Jonas Elliott Gerson, PnuVax Co-Founder, said in a statement.
PnuVax intends to provide coverage against multiple variations of the pneumonia-causing bacteria, pneumococcus, in a low-cost vaccination that could be distributed in the developing world. The production process is anticipated to be sped up by the use of the company’s patented conjugation platform technology, which is expected to increase yield at a reduced cost.
“Creating a healthy marketplace for vaccines is crucial to our efforts to protect every child through immunization,” Seth Berkley, MD, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which plans to partner with PnuVax to distribute the vaccine, said. “That’s why this grant to a potential new and innovative supplier is so important. Gavi has now helped 58 countries to introduce pneumococcal vaccine since our support started in 2009 and coverage is steadily increasing. This vaccine is at the forefront of our fight against pneumonia."
The company is also planning to produce and provide the vaccine to Canadians at a reduced cost, as its production will be based in Montréal, Canada. According to the company’s co-founder Allison Turner, the northern communities of Canada still suffer greatly from the spread of pneumonia, and PnuVax intends to aid the in the reduction of childhood pneumonia occurrences.
Donald F Gerson, PhD, PnuVax’s CEO, said that the partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help the vaccine “increase the] supply of low-cost pneumococcal conjugate vaccine on a global scale,” citing the grant as an essential part of the upcoming early-stage clinical trials set for the therapy.