Univercells to scale-up sub 30 cent polio vaccine platform

A Univercells-led consortium has received a grant extension to scale-up a manufacturing platform it claims can slash the cost of inactivated polio vaccines.

In December 2016, a consortium led by Belgium biomanufacturing technology firm Univercells received a $12 million (€10.4 million) grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a low-cost vaccine manufacturing platform. The consortium also involves Batavia Biosciences which has developed the polio manufacturing process and Natrix Separations (now owned by MilliporeSigma) for the purification membrane.

Two years on and a $4 million grant extension has been awarded to Univercells and Batavia Biosciences to scale-up the firm’s NevoLine system for the production of inactivated polio vaccine (sIPV).

Polio vaccine. Image: UNICEF Ethiopia on Visual Hunt

“This challenging two-year project aimed at delivering a new manufacturing system to drastically decrease cost, footprint and time to market for vaccine manufacturers, and we are pleased to have met these goals,” said Univercells CEO Hugues Bultot.

The firm claims it is able to produce trivalent sIPV at less than $0.30/dose using the NevoLine platform, representing a five-fold reduction compared to current manufacturing technologies.

“The NevoLine system is self-contained into a 6m² series of isolators,” said Bultot. “A facility designed with four NevoLine units would deliver up to 50 million sIPV doses per year for an estimated capital cost of $20M. These breakthrough achievements further strengthen our dedication to innovating flexible, scalable and accessible vaccines and biotherapeutics manufacturing solutions.”

The consortium hopes to reduce the cost of its polio vaccine further, to as little as $0.15 per dose. José Castillo, co-founder and CTO of Univercells, previously told this publication one of the main milestones in the sIPV program was to demonstrate a 40-fold increase compared to the benchmark current Cytodex-based bioreactor processes.

“Univercells achieved this by acting on the cell culture equipment (bioreactor) and on process optimization. Mainly, designing a compact fixed-bed bioreactor achieving high cell density was instrumental in reaching high final concentrations (200,000+ cells/cm²).”

Read more: Univercells $19m Booster Shot to Help Disrupt Vaccine Industry

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