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A vaccine for Ebola, Marburg viruses?

By Staff | Apr 20, 2012

Dr. D.L. Harris, left, Joel Harris, chief marketing officer, work in the lab at Harrisvaccines in Ames. The company has been commissioned to develop a vaccine for Ebola and Marburg viruses by the Department of Defense.

AMES – Harrisvaccines has been named to provide RNA process development for a trivalent vaccine against the deadly hemorrhagic fever causing filoviruses known as Ebola virus and Marburg virus.

The project is funded by a $15 million contract overseen by the Chemical Biological Medical Systems-Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program,which are responsible for developing, acquiring and stockpiling FDA-approved vaccines to protect against biological weapons.

There are currently no licensed vaccines or treatments against filoviruses, even though there is an up to 90 percent fatality rate in humans, which makes them a potential agent of bioterrorism.

Paragon Bioservices, a Baltimore-based research and development company, and the University of Maryland, will utilize an alphavirus replicon particle-based platform to develop the vaccine.

Harrisvaccines, which uses the same alphavirus platform to produce animal vaccines, will provide expertise in RNA manufacturing to Paragon Bioservices.

The filovirus project marks Harrisvaccines’ first foray into human vaccines.

An Iowa State University start-up company formed six years ago, Harrisvaccines primarily focuses on developing vaccines for diseases effecting animals including the economically devastating swine influenza virus and porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome virus in pigs; and white spot syndrome virus and infectious myonecrosis virus in farmed shrimp.

“The opportunity to be involved in a project this significant to human health is a milestone for Harrisvaccines,” said Dr. D. L. “Hank” Harris, founder and president of Harrisvaccines. “Our ability to create efficacious vaccines and produce them rapidly has put Harrisvaccines in a position to apply breakthrough RNA technology to both the human and animal vaccine worlds.”

Dr. Kurt Kamrud, Harrisvaccines vice president of research and chief scientific officer, will serve as technical consultant on the filovirus project. He has extensive experience in both the replicon system and its use for filovirus vaccine development.

Prior to joining Harrisvaccines, Kamrud was with AlphaVax where he was the lead scientist on the Ebola and Marburg virus projects and was involved in all aspects of filovirus-specific alphavirus platform development. This included molecular construction of alphavirus replicons; alphavirus particleproduction; process and assay development; and preclinical testing of the vaccine.

Harrisvaccines focuses on improving animal health and enhancing productivity in the swine, cattle and farmed shrimp industries. Using state-of-the-art advanced molecular science, Harrisvaccines employs two unique RNA platforms to develop products which aid in the prevention and treatment of infectious animal diseases. For more information, visit www.harrisvaccines.com.

Earns tech honors

Harrisvaccines was awarded Iowa Life Sciences Company of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa at its seventh annual Prometheus Awards gala held recently in Des Moines.

“We are thrilled to be named Iowa Life Sciences Company of the Year,” Harris said. “It is public recognition of Harrisvaccines’ exceptionally talented staff and the innovative platform we employ.”

The Prometheus Awards is Iowa’s largest, most prestigious distinction recognizing and celebrating innovation in Iowa’s high-tech industry.

The ceremony honors both companies and individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in technology.

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