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BioMARC Helps Advance Biodefense Vaccines for DoD

Biomarc Researchers
This photo shows BioMARC production supervisor Brandon Marsh and production associate Nicole Kelly. Credit: William Cotton/Colorado State University

Colorado State University’s Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing and Academic Resource Center (BioMARC) has been awarded a 10-month, $4.6 million contract to help develop and manufacture new vaccines to fight Western, Eastern and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis viruses.

The award to BioMARC is a subcontract awarded by Battelle, a research organization that serves the Department of Defense (DoD) Medical Countermeasure Systems Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program (MCS-JVAP).

BioMARC, a high-containment biopharmaceutical unit launched by CSU in 2006, has been successfully meeting milestones set last year by the DOD for the Ebola and Marburg vaccines.

The encephalitic Alphavirus targets of the new contract can cause severe long-term disease and possibly death in humans. There currently are no licensed U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved human vaccines or therapeutics to protect against or treat such viral infections.

BioMARC will produce the vaccines using a viral replicon particle (VRP) technology that works in a variety of ways to better immunize individuals. The VRP itself is a re-engineered non-infectious virus used to deliver and present the antigen that prompts the body to create the antibodies that fight an invading virus.

“Our facilities and staff are very well suited to help with product types such as VRP vaccines that are created using advanced biotechnology methodologies,” said Dennis Pierro, BioMARC’s director and an assistant professor of microbiology, immunology and pathology at CSU. “With this infrastructure, BioMARC at CSU plays an important role in the creation of the next generation of vaccines.”

While the primary purpose of the vaccines would be to protect U.S. soldiers, it is possible that such vaccines could be used for endemic outbreaks as well.

BioMARC has approximately 30 full-time employees and about 12 CSU students who will be working at the facility. The project will run through May 2016.

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