East Hawaii News

Hawai’i Biotech Receives Dengue Vaccine Contract

December 3, 2015, 3:24 PM HST
* Updated December 3, 3:27 PM
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Amidst the continued increase of confirmed dengue fever cases on the Big Island, Hawai’i Biotech Inc. announced Thursday that it has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Phase I contract to develop a dengue vaccine.

The contract was awarded by the United States Army SBIR Program and would work to develop an effective dengue vaccine that would help in protecting military personnel against the “potentially mission-aborting disease,” according to HBI officials.

“This contract will enable Hawai’i Biotech to apply our many years of experience in viral vaccine development and our knowledge of the challenges in developing a dengue vaccine to this important mission,” said Elliot Parks, HBI Chief Executive Officer.

Dengue vaccines are currently in clinical trials, but only offer partial protection and long immunization periods, the company said, noting that the military is in need of “more immediate and complete immunity” for personnel being deployed to tropical or subtropical regions.

HBI plans to develop and test novel adjuvants to enhance the immunogenicity of an inactivated dengue vaccine candidate. The company believes its efforts will be the first steps towards the development of the world’s first vaccine capable of rapidly generating complete, lasting protection from the dengue virus.

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“The growing outbreak of dengue fever in Hawai’i highlights the need for stronger containment efforts now, and a commitment to preventing additional outbreaks in the future,” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said. “This vaccine has the potential to seriously improve the response to dengue fever, both in Hawai’i and around the world, and I am pleased that the Army has awarded this important research and development contract to a local Hawai’i business.”

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The project’s first state will include the selection of suitable adjuvant formulations and then demonstrate protective efficacy in a mouse model with a single dengue serotype.

One the initial phase of the project is completed, HBI can apply for Phase II funding that would provide for continued development of the inactivated dengue vaccine candidate.

Work on all four dengue serotypes to establish feasibility of the required tetravalent vaccine for dengue and additional preclinical efficacy studies would be included in this phase.

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Should HBI successfully execute Phase II, the vaccine would be ready for clinical trials.

The contracted work will be managed by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command under Contract No. W81XWH-15-C-0120 and will be managed and done in collaboration with the Viral and Rickettsial Diseases Department at the Naval Medical Research Center.

HBI is a privately held biotechnology company that operates out of Aiea on Oahu. The company places its focus on the research and development of vaccines for established and emerging infectious diseases. Lead vaccine candidates currently in clinical development target both west nile virus and dengue.

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