IAVI and the Public Health Agency of Canada Enter into License Agreement for Technology to Enable Lassa Fever Vaccine Development


IAVI to Apply Expertise in Viral Vector Vaccines to Lassa Fever Prevention Effort

NEW YORK, Aug. 2, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) today announced that it has entered into a non-exclusive license agreement with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) toward advancing development, regulatory approval, and supply of a new vaccine candidate against Lassa fever virus, an ongoing public health threat in West Africa.

Through this agreement, IAVI obtained technology for a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) Lassa fever vaccine candidate, rVSVDeltaG-LASV-GPC. Developed by scientists at the PHAC's National Microbiology Laboratory and based on the same platform used to produce Merck's successful Ebola Zaire virus vaccine, this candidate provided high-level protection from Lassa fever virus in previously conducted animal studies.

With support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the IAVI-led Lassa fever vaccine development program will further develop this candidate and create a stockpile to address future outbreaks. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 Lassa fever cases are diagnosed annually, resulting in approximately 5,000 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified Lassa fever as one of the top emerging pathogens likely to cause severe outbreaks in the near future.

In addition to its core HIV vaccine effort, IAVI seeks to maximize its impact on global public health by working with partners to address other urgent unmet public health needs - including vaccines for other infectious diseases - where its technologies and experience in vaccine and monoclonal antibody discovery and development can add unique value.

"IAVI looks forward to continuing the innovative vaccine science pioneered by PHAC scientists. We are excited to apply more than a decade of our experience in viral vector vaccines to advance the development of this Lassa fever vaccine candidate," said Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of IAVI. "By continuing to evolve our understanding of and expertise with the VSV platform, which we are also using for HIV vaccine development efforts, we believe we will enhance our ability to develop and deliver an effective HIV vaccine to those who need it most."

"It's great to hear that the innovative work of our scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory will contribute to new options for the treatment of Lassa fever," said Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.

About Lassa Fever
Lassa fever is an emerging zoonotic virus that causes severe hemorrhagic fever in humans. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 Lassa fever cases are diagnosed annually, resulting in approximately 5,000 deaths. Despite this high morbidity and mortality, no vaccine for Lassa fever is currently available.

Lassa fever is endemic to West Africa and is associated with annual outbreaks as evidenced by the ongoing outbreak in Nigeria which started in January 2018. In addition to its toll in affected countries in Africa, Lassa fever has the potential to spread more widely if infected individuals travel and become ill outside the endemic region. The WHO has identified Lassa fever as one of the top emerging pathogens likely to cause severe outbreaks in the near future in its recently created Research and Development Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics.

The Lassa virus is most commonly transmitted to humans from an infected rodent known as the multimammate rat. However, the virus can also spread from person to person via bodily fluids and causes a range of symptoms including vomiting, swelling of the face, bleeding, and pain in the chest, back, and abdomen.

About the rVSVDeltaG-LASV-GPC Vaccine
This vaccine is based on an attenuated strain of vesicular stomatitis virus that has been modified to express a Lassa fever virus protein that plays an essential role in establishing virus infection. The rVSVDeltaG-LASV-GPC vaccine was created by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory.

About IAVI
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a nonprofit scientific organization whose mission is to develop vaccines and other biomedical innovations that prevent HIV infection. Since its founding in 1996, IAVI has provided scientific, research and development and policy leadership to address the needs of communities and key populations at risk for HIV infection around the world. IAVI works with more than 100 academic, industry, government, civil society, clinical and community partners in more than 25 countries. IAVI is committed to supporting the broad field of HIV vaccine research and to fostering collaborations that accelerate the development and availability of new prevention tools. In pursuit of our goals, we work to catalyze and support novel partnership models that engage partners from both the public and private sectors across the product development continuum.

IAVI's global reach, including its clinical research network in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in India, has allowed IAVI to make fundamental contributions to understanding of the epidemiology, transmission, natural history, virology and immunology of HIV infection. This work played a key role in facilitating the structure-based design of promising HIV vaccine candidates as well as the discovery of "broadly neutralizing antibodies" that are now being advanced as promising approaches for HIV prevention. IAVI's integrated capabilities in vaccine discovery, development and clinical research take advantage of biopharmaceutical industry expertise to accelerate the development and testing of novel HIV vaccine candidates.

In addition to its core HIV vaccine effort, IAVI is working to amplify its global health impact by working with partners to address other urgent unmet public health needs - such as vaccines for other infectious diseases - where our existing technologies, assets and experience can add unique value.

About the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium (VHFC)
Members of VHFC include Tulane University, Autoimmune Technologies, the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Harvard University, Zalgen Labs, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, TSRI, the University of California at San Diego, the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital Lassa Fever Program, and the Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) in Sierra Leone. The VHFC team has produced commercial (CE Marked) Lassa fever point-of-care and confirmatory diagnostics based on recombinant proteins that have high sensitivity for detecting infection with Lassa virus. VHFC also continues productive collaborations to deepen understanding of the natural history of viral hemorrhagic fevers while providing training for West African scientists and further developing research and clinical trial infrastructure in Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

About the Public Health Agency of Canada
The Public Health Agency of Canada empowers Canadians to improve their health. In partnership with others, its activities focus on preventing disease and injuries, promoting good physical and mental health, and providing information to support informed decision making. It values scientific excellence and provides national leadership in response to public health threats.


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SOURCE International AIDS Vaccine Initiative

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