SBIR grant will fund collaboration to develop safer commercial-grade medium for Vero cell antigen production.

Ventria Bioscience’s nontherapeutics division InVitria won a two-year, $1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), to support a collaborative research program focused on using the firm’s cell culture supplements to develop animal-free defined cell culture media for the commercial production of cell-based vaccines. Collaborators in the project include the Institute for Antiviral Research at Utah State University, SoloHill Engineering, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

Specific goals include the formulation of defined media optimized for maximum cell density, extended cell viability, and maximum antigen yield in the Vero cell line grown using microcarriers, roller bottles, and bioreactors.

Commercial vaccine production relies heavily on the use of cell culture media supplemented with animal-derived products including fetal bovine serum and transferring, explains Steven Pettit, Ph.D., InVitria’s director of cell culture development. However, such products are expensive, have undefined composition, and are a potential source of contamination from infectious agents. The SBIR-funded project aims to address these concerns by developing an animal-free replacement that doesn’t sacrifice performance.

“Our project is designed to address multiple significant concerns for the vaccine industry,” comments Scott Deeter, Ventria’s president and CEO. “We expect that the use of animal-free cell culture supplements in place of animal-derived components will enable the development of a defined, animal-free cell culture medium that provides superior perofmance at a lower cost and, at the same time, answers the call by agencies for a safer alternative to animal-derived components used in vaccine production.” 

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