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GE and iBio designing plant-cell based vaccine facility

By Gareth Macdonald , 01-Aug-2012

GE Healthcare has started designing a vaccine manufacturing facility for an unnamed drug company, just days after expanding its collaboration with plant-cell production technology firm iBio.

Last week GE Healthcare – a unit of US group General Electric – expanded its 2010 deal with iBio and partner the Fraunhofer USA Center for Molecular Biotechnology (CMB) to include the development of the iBioLaunch platform for large-scale manufacturing.

This work has already begun according to Olivier Loeillot, head of enterprise solutions at GE, who told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that “iBio and GE are currently working together on the design of a facility for a pharma company who are looking to produce a vaccine using plant-based technology.” Loeillot did not name the drugmaker involved.

To date – according to iBio’s latest US SEC filing  – only one drugmaker, Brazil’s Fiocruz/Bio-Manguinhosin, has been granted a licence to use the technology for vaccine development. Under that deal the Rio de Janeiro firm will invest $6.5m (€5.2m) to create a vaccine for yellow fever for the South American market.

The filing also reveals that iBio and CMB have set up a pilot plant using the iBioLanuch platform at the latter firm’s facility in Newark, Delaware which is being used for the development of a H5N1 influenza vaccine.

Biomanufacturing

The expansion of the iBio collaboration fits GE’s strategic efforts to further build its biomanufacturing capabilities, which began with the launch of its healthymagination project in September and continued with its acquisition of plans to buy Xcellerex this year .

Like the previous moves GE clearly also believes the iBio platform has global potential. Loeillot said in principle the technology is “of interest to all biopharmaceutical manufacturers.

Not only does the iBioLaunch platform have the potential to manufacture proteins which cannot be commercially produced in any other system, but could also significantly reduce the capital and operating costs of biotherapeutic and vaccine manufacture compared with traditional animal cell and microbial based methods and corresponding facilities.”

However, while GE believes in the platform it has no plans to buy it or iBio according to Loeillot who reiterated that: “We began our alliance with iBio in 2010 and we are excited to be working with them to develop a single, flexible facility for plant-based biomanufacturing and both parties are very happy with the nature of our relationship at this stage.

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