Novavax, CPL Biologicals (CPLB), and the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) established a collaboration to develop a malaria vaccine based on Novavax’ virus-like particle vaccine technology, for use in India. The public-private partnership will combine the Novavax platform with the malaria vaccine research expertise of the ICGEB and vaccine manufacturing capacity of the CPLB.

The initiative is being funded by India’s Department of Biotechnology Vaccine Grand Challenge Program, and will be managed by the Malaria Vaccine Development Program, a nonprofit organization based in New Delhi that supports the development of malaria vaccines. CPL Biologicals is a joint-venture biotech firm established by Novavax and India’s Cadila Pharmaceuticals.

Under terms of the agreement, the collaborators will initially develop and evaluate VLPs that express the Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (PfCSP), which they point out forms the basis of the only recombinant malaria vaccine that has shown efficacy in field trials to date. Once feasibility of the Novavax technology has been demonstrated, the partners will work to generate VLPs against other antigens from other stages of malaria parasites. They suggest that a multi-stage VLP vaccine could provide higher efficacy than those based on a single antigen or that target just one stage of the parasite’s life cycle. CPLB will be responsible for the manufacture of constructs for advanced preclinical studies, clinical trials, and commercial supply.

“Novavax is honored to be working with leading malaria experts at ICGEB and with the Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India to support the development and production of malaria vaccine candidates by Novavax and CPLB,” comments Gale Smith, Ph.D., vp for vaccine development at Novavax. “By combining our knowledge and experience with these partners to pursue the most advanced malaria vaccine concepts, we hope to one day have an effective vaccine against one of the world’s most devastating diseases.”

Novavax already had three VLP-based vaccine candidates in clinical trials. A seasonal influenza vaccine is in Phase II development, and vaccines targeting A/H5N1 avian influenza pandemic flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are in Phase I development. Two Phase I studies with the pandemic flu candidate have been initiated this year. Data from the Phase I RSV vaccine trial were reported earlier this month, and confirmed that the Fusion (F) protein nanoparticle candidate was generally well-tolerated, highly immunogenic, and triggered the production of functional antibodies that neutralized RSV. 

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