“The frequent arising of new influenza strains represents the greatest challenge to health authorities as it renders currently available vaccines ineffective,” says Dr Mohammed Alsharifi, the Head of the Vaccine Research Group at the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide.
“While annual vaccine reformulation appears to be effective against closely matched strains of influenza, the current method is not effective against drifted strains as well as new pandemic strains, as illustrated by the recent H1N1 pandemic. This raises the need for a new technology,” he says.
Dr Alsharifi says the recent experience of swine flu and the continuing fears of the medical, scientific and world health communities of the sudden emergence of a deadly bird flu strain, means that a new approach to flu vaccines needs to be contemplated.
“What we need is some protection against all influenza virus A strains, including any emergent pandemic virus,” he says.
A new technology, invented by Dr Alsharifi (University of Adelaide) and Professor Arno Müllbacher (Australian National University), has helped to generate a new influenza vaccine – GammaFlu™ – that provides cross-protection against current influenza viruses as well as any other unknown strains that may arise in the future.
“Our technology is expected to change the world of vaccination, as it can be implemented to produce many other vaccines,” Dr Alsharifi says.
To translate their basic scientific discoveries into clinical application, both scientists established the company Gamma Vaccines Pty Ltd in July 2009. Gamma Vaccines is now commercialising its gamma-irradiated influenza vaccine to capture part of the global market for flu vaccines, which is estimated at US$4 billion annually.
Since its establishment, the company has devised a significant Global Health Initiative as part of its commercialisation plans, aimed at making its technology available to developing countries.
“As our near neighbours, with a population of over 240 million, Indonesia represents an exciting opportunity to take this technology from the laboratory to the people,” Dr Alsharifi says.
Gamma Vaccines has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesian pharmaceutical companies PT Bio Farma and PT Soho Industri Pharmasi, establishing a three-way collaboration that will see the development, manufacturing, clinical trials and distribution of the vaccine in Indonesia and other ASEAN countries.
As part of the collaboration, a team of scientists from PT Bio Farma (the Indonesian State-owned vaccine manufacturer) will be trained in various aspects of the new technology, including production, safety and quality control. This training will be held in the Vaccine Research Laboratory at the University of Adelaide.
Gamma Vaccines Pty Ltd
Gamma Vaccines was established in 2009 by Dr Mohammed Alsharifi and Professor Arno Müllbacher to solve one of the great challenges in infectious diseases – the development of a ‘universal’ cross-protective influenza virus vaccine.
The company is headquartered in Canberra and has a firm commitment to Global Health initiatives for developing countries. The company has attracted seed investment funds and early stage innovation grants from the Federal Government and the Australian Capital Territory Government to support its development of a universal flu vaccine.
PT Bio Farma
PT Bio Farma is one of the largest vaccine companies in the ASEAN region, with a 120-year history of producing sera and vaccines. Founded in 1890 in Jakarta, Indonesia, Bio Farma is now headquartered in Bandung in Western Java. It is a founding member of the Developing Country Vaccine Manufacturers Network and is a supplier of vaccines to UN agencies and the global market.
Since it was established, Bio Farma has produced an extensive range of vaccines, including small pox, rabies, cholera, typhoid, polyvalent bacterial vaccine and snake venom anti-serum. Polio and measles vaccine production was established at Bio Farma in 1992.
By the year 2000, Bio Farma had begun exporting vaccines. At this time the World Health Organization appointed Bio Farma as one of the Global Training Network sites with respect to Quality Assurance of Live Attenuated Polio and Measles Vaccines.
In 2004, Bio Farma commenced production of the combo vaccine of DTP-Hepatitis B vaccine.
PT Soho Industri Pharmasi
PT Soho Industri Pharmasi is a part of The Soho Group based in Jakarta, and is one of Indonesia’s fastest growing pharmaceutical companies. It comprises a significant marketing and distribution business, PT Parit Padang Global, which operates across 25 branches throughout Indonesia. It has more than 5000 employees, plus distribution and marketing of SOHO products in selected ASEAN countries, Africa and Latin America.
The SOHO Group’s two pharmaceutical divisions, PT Ehica Industri Farmasi and PT Soho Industri Pharmasi, manufacture Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (API) medicines and healthcare and herbal products.
The first company in SOHO Group, Ethica, was founded in 1946. In the past five years, Soho Group has been the stand out pharmaceutical company in Indonesia – its market growth more than doubling. PT Soho Industri Pharmasi is an equity investor in Gamma Vaccines.