FORT COLLINS, Colo. – June 4, 2012 – InVitria, a division of Ventria Bioscience, today announced that it has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The funds total $1.5 million over 2 years, and will support a collaborative research and development effort between InVitria; The Institute for Antiviral Research at Utah State University (Logan, Utah); SoloHill Engineering, Inc. (Ann Arbor, Mich.); and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (Fort Collins, Colo.). The focus of the research is to use InVitria’s cell culture supplements to develop a novel, animal-free, defined cell culture media for the commercial production of cell-based vaccines.
“Currently, commercial vaccine production relies heavily on the use of cell culture media supplemented with animal-derived products, such as fetal bovine serum and transferrin, to nourish the cell lines and support their growth,” said Steven Pettit, Ph.D., InVitria’s director of cell culture development and the principal investigator on the grant. “However, animal-derived products are expensive, have undefined composition that leads to inconsistent manufacturing, and are a potential source of contamination from infectious agents. Our goal is to develop a replacement that mitigates the risks associated with using serum and other animal-derived components without sacrificing performance.”
As part of the grant application process, InVitria received a letter of support from U.S. Senator Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.).
“InVitria’s innovative approach to formulating cell culture media can improve the safety and efficiency of vaccine production,” said Bennet. “I applaud InVitria and other Colorado companies whose hard work and thorough research lead to concrete solutions and valuable contributions to society’s well-being.”
Over the last century, mass vaccination strategies have eradicated or nearly eradicated smallpox, paralytic polio, and a number of other childhood vaccine-preventable diseases and dramatically reduced worldwide morbidity and mortality from many others. As the demand for current and novel vaccines has grown, the manufacturers are seeking a shift from traditional, egg-based methods to cell culture–based biomanufacturing systems. Cell culture offers advantages over egg-based manufacturing, such as decreased allergenicity and increased production speed and yield, but the process generally depends on the use of reagents that are derived from animal sources. Not only are these reagents poorly defined in composition, but their use also introduces the potential risk that the end product will be contaminated with animal viruses, prions, or other infectious agents.
“Our project is designed to address multiple significant concerns for the vaccine industry,” said Scott Deeter, president and CEO of Ventria Bioscience. “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 performance 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.”
The specific aims of the grant are to formulate defined media optimized for maximum cell density, extended cell viability, and maximum antigen yield in the Vero cell line when it is grown using microcarriers, roller bottles and bioreactors. The antigenicity of vaccine components produced using the novel and industry-standard media will also be compared.
InVitria develops, manufactures and markets a portfolio of animal-free cell culture supplements that improve performance, cost effectiveness and consistency of cell-based biomanufacturing systems. InVitria is a Division of Ventria Bioscience.
Ventria Bioscience develops, manufactures and markets biotherapeutics, bioreagents and zoonotic vaccines using its patented ExpressTec biomanufacturing technology, which enables the development of new and cost-effective biologic products. Ventria also provides biomanufacturing supply and services to developers of biotherapeutics, recombinant protein-based vaccines, and biosimilars. For more information, visit www.Ventria.com.