Protein Potential won three Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) NIH grants totalling $1.8 million to support the development of a malaria vaccine that protects against Plasmodium falciparum. The work is being undertaken in three stages. In the first the firm will work with Aduro to design a dual component vaccine that triggers antibodies and protective T cell responses against the parasite’s asymptomatic liver stage, to prevent infection. The second phase of the program will see Protein Potential work with a team at the NIH’s Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research on a vaccine that triggers production of antibodies against multiple P. falciparum antigens to block the parasite from invading red blood cells. In the third phase of the program Protein Potential will generate recombinant protein-based vaccines against three different parasite life cycle stages to prevent infection of liver cells and transmission from mosquito to human.

“This triple punch at the parasite has not been explored before,” states B. Kim Lee Sim, Ph.D., the firm’s founder and president. “Our goal is to come up with a vaccine cocktail that the elusive malaria parasite will be unable to outsmart. This is a very exciting opportunity to exploit multiple parasite targets for immune protection. A vaccine that simultaneously elicits protective immune responses against multiple parasite proteins has the potential to finally achieve high-level protection against malaria.”

Protein Potential is combining its expertise in protein expression, process development, and vaccine manufacturing to develop vaccines against P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria, SARS, dengue fever, anthrax, tularemia, and plague. Development of the P. vivax vaccine is being supported by a $3 million SBIR grant from NIH, which was awarded in April 2010. The firm’s products and services operation provides recombinant proteins and plasmids to the industry, government, and academia.

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