News Feature | February 19, 2014

Daiichi Sankyo And UMN Pharma To Link Up On Norovirus Vaccine

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By Estel Grace Masangkay

Daiichi Sankyo and UMN Pharma have entered into collaboration to develop a vaccine against norovirus. Norovirus was designated as a high vaccine development priority by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s Immunization and Vaccines Committee last December. “Under the terms of the agreement, UMN Pharma will provide Daiichi Sankyo with recombinant norovirus Virus-Like Particle (VLP) antigen which has been produced by a cell-culture manufacturing method employing the Baculovirus Expression Vector System (BEVS), a unique next-generation technology platform for manufacturing biopharmaceutical products. Daiichi Sankyo will conduct basic research to determine the possibility to develop norovirus vaccine with a novel device,” Daiichi Sankyo stated in a press release.

Norovirus is a leading cause of infectious gastroenteritis. The virus is transmitted through fecally contaminated food or water, person to person contact, or via airborne virus contamination of surfaces. The number of infected people is rising both in Japan and worldwide. Approximately 200,000 deaths of children are reported in developing countries per year.

Symptoms include nausea, severe vomiting, and diarrhea among others. Norovirus usually affects very young and elderly patients as well as those who are immuno-suppressed. The disease is more common in developing countries, but also observed in developed nations.  No vaccine for norovirus has been approved as of present.

UMN Pharma is currently developing UMN-2003, a norovirus VLP + rotavirus VP6 non-live injectable trivalent vaccine. UMN 2003 is intended to prevent two major causative agents of acute gastroenteritis in only one injection. The company said UMN-2003 is proven to be highly immunogenic and potentiates the immune response of each component. UMN Pharma said it is currently conducting nonclinical studies and planning Phase I/II clinical trials in Finland.

The company agreed to provide Daiichi Sankyo exclusive norovirus VLP antigen and rights to exclusively negotiate for further partnership during the research period. The partners said they will negotiate over further collaboration for development of the vaccine if results of the collaborative research hit its targets.