A vaccine that may prevent infection from up to 20 types of viruses, which could lead to cervical cancer, may come into being through a Sino-European collaboration.
Hangzhou-based YangSheng-Tang Group's Xiamen Innovax Biotech Co Ltd signed a global alliance partnership agreement with British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to develop a next-generation vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV) last month.
It was the first time a Chinese vaccine company had entered into partnership with a world-leading drug conglomerate to jointly develop and ultimately commercialize a vaccine that benefits women globally.
At this time, most HPV vaccine products available in the world only protect against at most nine types of viruses.
This vaccine will use an innovative antigen detection method developed by professor Xia Ningshao's team from the School of Life Sciences at Xiamen University in Fujian province.
The team has worked through a research-industry collaboration with Innovax for nearly two decades.
"Such an alliance shows that the core technology in research and development in the country's vaccine field has reached an unprecedented height, and the partnership is an exemplary winwin collaboration between the pharmaceutical industries of China and Europe," said Zhong Shanshan, chairman of the YangShengTang Group.
"It's also the first time that China's vaccine technology has seized the opportunity to walk toward the center of the world stage and play a role in the battlefield of global vaccines," said Zhang Rong, president of Xiamen University.
GSK said the partnership with Innovax will speed up the development of a next-generation vaccine for cervical cancer, the third most common cancer in women.
Under the agreement, Innovax will build a vaccine production line in Xiamen that complies with standards of China, the United States, the European Union and the World Health Organization.
It will produce and provide to GSK various types of HPV vaccine antigens, which will be combined with GSK's patented adjuvant to develop new HPV vaccines for worldwide commercialization, including in Europe and the United States.
"International pharmaceutical giants usually purchase early-stage research and development results but they take control of the core procedures of secondary-stage development and production on their own. But in this case, Innovax won the production of vaccine antigens after adequate research and evaluations by GSK," said Zhong, who is also chairman of Innovax.
The key competitiveness of Xia's team lies in its development of a technique that protects against three HPV types with just one virus-like particle. The research was published in the United Kingdom-based Nature Communications in December.
So far, all HPV vaccines are based on a technique that one virus-like particle protects against one virus type.
Such a breakthrough provides insights into the development of a higher-valent vaccine by using seven virus-like particles to protect against 20 types of virus, including 18 that are highly risky and could lead to cancer, Zhong said.
"The current one-to-one technique restricts the development of higher-valent vaccines as a vaccine product that protects against more than 10 types of viruses means high dosage, the possibility of more potential side effects, and higher complexity and cost of vaccine production," he said.
The cooperation between Innovax and Xiamen University brought two achievements that hit the international vaccine industry. The world's first Hepatitis E vaccine was approved in China in 2012 and in April one product became China's first vaccine to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for clinical trials.