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Cheaper Vaccines! Maybe?

I came away from this year’s World Vaccine Congress impressed by two potentially revolutionary technologies that could radically change the cost of vaccines.

The first technology, from LimmaTech Biologics AG, is a manufacturing process for producing conjugate vaccines that eliminates the conjugation chemistry steps and further downstream purification by combining the typical two fermentations for the polysaccharide and carrier protein and associated purification steps, into a single fermentation and purification step. This approach eliminates the entire antigen conjugation and post-conjugation purification unit operations, including:

  • cleanup of the antigen prior to conjugation (TFF)
  • activation of the polysaccharide for conjugation (stirred tank reaction)
  • conjugation of antigen and activated polysaccharide (stirred tank reaction)
  • removal of unconjugated material (chromatography and TFF)
  • Simplifying a process reduces potential errors and campaign time.

    Assuming polysaccharide titers are comparable to current processes, this approach could potentially eliminate up to 50% of the losses associated with conventional conjugate vaccine manufacturing processes. Such a dramatic improvement yields would directly impact the COGS in vaccine manufacturing offering the opportunity for significant price reductions in vaccine pricing. Such game-changing cost reduction would enable global vaccine players, such Gavi (The Vaccine Alliance), the World Health Organization, or UNICEF, to better deliver vaccines to underserved global markets and eventually provide a path for bringing the price of relatively expensive conjugate vaccines, such as typhoid vaccine, down to the more affordable levels seen today for such vaccines as oral cholera vaccine.

    A second technology, from CALIXAR, is a detergent-based antigen extraction process, which results in a more intact vaccine product than current similar processes. Vaccine antigens from the detergent extraction were shown in animal models to be 10-30x more potent compared to vaccines produced using standard production methods. If these results are reproducible with human vaccines, vaccine doses could be significantly lower than current dosing levels, reducing the price per dose significantly, thereby making these vaccines more affordable. Improved dosing for vaccines could also have an enormous impact on the ability of on vaccine manufacturing manufacturers to meet the growing demand for such products. This detergent extraction process also has the potential to make vaccines like the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine as affordable to all countries as diphtheria/tetanus vaccines are now.

    Since I manage the Process Economic Modeling team at BPTC, I am excited by these new developments in vaccine manufacturing and anxiously await further news on their development and implementation in the global supply of vaccines.

    Blog article by: Rick Stock