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First MSD Wellcome Trust Hilleman Laboratories' Project Aims to Assess New Formulation Technologies
Date: 25/01/2011

The MSD Wellcome Trust Hilleman Laboratories announced today that the organization’s first project will be a feasibility study into how new technologies might be used to develop a rotavirus vaccine designed specifically with developing country needs in mind. Formulations based on dissolving thin strips or granules will be examined for their potential to improve product stability, ease of use, transportation and affordability. The therapeutic focus of the project has been selected because of the tremendous global impact of rotavirus diarrhea on childhood mortality. If the initial study is successful, options to further develop the technology for rotavirus and other oral vaccines of importance to developing country health will be explored.

“Many first-generation vaccines have not been developed with the specific needs of countries with poor infrastructure for vaccine delivery in mind. This is a much needed exploration of how to tackle one of the greatest public health and logistics challenges in the developing world -- distributing life-saving vaccines without the requirement for large bulk shipments, expensive warehousing and costly, difficult-to-maintain refrigerated shipping paths from the manufacturing plant to the patient,” says Hilleman Laboratories Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Altaf A. Lal.

The project is a collaboration among the Hilleman Laboratories, MSD and Medicine in Need (MEND), an international non-profit organization specializing in the application of advanced vaccine formulation technologies. For this feasibility study, MEND is providing the formulation technology and MSD is providing components of its existing rotavirus vaccine.

“With developing country needs in mind, we are targeting heat stability, ease of administration, package size, and cost of goods as key features of the product,” said Dr. Akshay Goel, Chief Scientific Officer at Hilleman Laboratories.” “MEND’s mission is to formulate life-saving vaccines in ways that allow their availability and sustainability to the impoverished populations who need them most,” said Dr. Andrew Schiermeier, CEO at MEND. “Our collaboration with Hilleman Labs and the MSD vaccines group provides an excellent opportunity to leverage the technical expertise of the different groups with the aim of creating a product that will be far-better suited for developing country needs." “This technology has the potential to be a real game changer in vaccine development and delivery,” said Dr. David Heymann, Chairman of the UK’s Health Protection Agency who also chairs the Strategic Advisory Group of the Hilleman Laboratories. “This kind of R&D is needed to make effective vaccines available in resource limited countries, so that they can be more easily used to decrease the impact of vaccine preventable diseases. There is tremendous synergy in bringing together the philanthropic, scientific and business prowess of these organizations and their funders to benefit so many of the world’s poorest.”

The World Health Organization estimates that annually from 10 percent up to 50 percent of vaccines may be wasted globally because of temperature control, shipping, and other logistical issues.

Although a potential vaccine coming out of the Hilleman Laboratories would be for global needs, nearly 100,000 rotavirus deaths each year occur in India,” said Dr. M. K. Bhan, Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology. “The Hilleman Laboratories effort to extend the utility of rotavirus vaccine in poor countries is to be welcomed.”

About the MSD Wellcome Trust Hilleman Laboratories

The Hilleman Laboratories (www.hillemanlabs.org) was created by MSD and the Wellcome Trust and established in India with the mission of developing high impact, affordable vaccines for people in developing countries in an innovative and sustainable way.

About Medicine in Need (MEND)

MEND is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization devoted to the successful development and manufacture of affordable and effective vaccines and drugs for diseases of poverty with characteristics that allow their widespread use and sustainability. We accomplish our mission by applying appropriate advanced technologies (either those we have in-house or sourced from an external network) to a candidate’s basic formulation, manufacturing process, and/or route of administration. MEND has offices and laboratories in Pretoria, South Africa, Paris, France, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our pipeline consists of several partnered or individual product candidates encompassing vaccines, drugs and diagnostics for a wide range of infectious diseases endemic to the developing world. MEND was selected as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer 2011. For more information, please contact Daphne Hao (dhao@medicineinneed.org)

About MSD

Today's MSD is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. MSD is a tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., with headquarters in Whitehouse Station, N.J., U.S.A. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.msd.com.

About Hilleman Laboratories

Named after renowned scientist Dr. Maurice Hilleman, Hilleman Laboratories is a first-of-its-kind joint-venture partnership formed between Merck & Co., a global research-driven pharmaceutical organization and Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation. Operating on a not-for-profit principle, Hilleman Laboratories leverages partnerships and collaborations with scientists in government, foundations, NGOs and other organizations to develop high impact, affordable vaccines for people in developing countries in an innovative and sustainable manner. Hilleman laboratories is focused on the development of both new vaccines in areas of unmet needs, and optimized vaccines, where existing products may be re-engineered to achieve greater impact in resource-limited settings.

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