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Mitsubishi’s Tobacco-Based Influenza Vaccine Could Rival Egg-Based Preparations

Mitsubishi’s Tobacco-Based Influenza Vaccine Could Rival Egg-Based Preparations

By: Sarah Massey, M.Sc.

Posted on: in News | Biotech News

According to research and consulting firm, GlobalData, the new tobacco-based influenza vaccine – under development by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma – could be substantial competition for more traditional egg-based preparations. The company is using transgenic tobacco plants in order to manufacture the virus.

Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma’s manufacturing process was first developed by Canada-based biopharmaceutical company Medicago. The company acquired the technology from Medicago in 2013.

“A number of vaccine giants including Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and MedImmune / AstraZeneca are also developing their vaccine portfolios,” said Achilleas Livieratos, an infectious diseases analyst for GlobalData. “However, their current egg-based, quadrivalent, inactivated (split virus) seasonal influenza vaccines lack the manufacturing efficiency of tobacco plant-derived vaccines that can also generate virus-like particles.”

The tobacco-based vaccine consists of virus-like particles designed to offer protection against seasonal influenza virus infection. The company says the vaccine is currently being tested in Phase III clinical trials, and could hit the US market in time for the 2018 to 2019 flu season.

Mitsubishi Tanabe’s virus-like-particle vaccine can be made in just four weeks; in comparison, chicken egg-based production takes 24 weeks to generate a viable product. What’s more, the tobacco-based vaccine is able to deliver more effective and sustained protection against influenza, according to Livieratos.

Traditional egg-based vaccines can also take almost half a year in order to confer immunity on the vaccinated individual. Those with egg allergies may also be excluded from receiving an influenza vaccine, due to the chance of a serious reaction.

In order to meet the global healthcare challenge of preventing illness and death due to the influenza virus, Mitsubishi Tanabe is investing in plant-based production methods for vaccine development. The hope is that the tobacco-based vaccines could overcome some of the limitations of egg-based preparations.

“Mitsubishi Tanabe will need to demonstrate strong safety data and yearly production consistency of its tobacco-based vaccine,” said Livieratos. “If the company’s product, or one like it, is approved, GlobalData expects a novel vaccine that boasts a rapid, plant-based manufacturing process to have a significant impact on the seasonal influenza vaccine landscape.”


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