Local biotech firm wins vaccine grant
Hawaii Biotech's dengue vaccine is called the most advanced of its type
Hawaii Biotech Inc. has won grant funding of nearly $1 million over the next year to move it closer to commercial production of the first dengue vaccine.
The funding will come from the Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative of the Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute, primarily funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Aiea-based company will use the money to conduct clinical trials on dengue -- a mosquito-borne disease prevalent in under-developed tropical and subtropical countries that infects about 100 million people each year, according to the PDVI.
Infection by any of the four strains of the dengue virus can lead to dengue fever, which can result in a life-threatening hemorrhagic fever and shock syndrome.
Clinical trials -- an important milestone in commercialization of a vaccine -- are expected to begin at the end of this year or early 2009, said Elliot Parks, Hawaii Biotech chief executive officer.
The company has received more than $10 million in grants for the dengue vaccine program over the past five years, he said.
Harold Margolis, director of the PDVI, said Hawaii Biotech's vaccine "represents a promising candidate worthy of further development" and that it is the only dengue vaccine candidate that has advanced this far in pre-clinical development.
"We see the Hawaii Biotech vaccine as an important part of our portfolio of vaccines in our efforts to control this global public health problem," he said.
Hawaii Biotech, which also is developing vaccines for West Nile virus and seasonal influenza, expects to begin commercial production of the dengue vaccine in the next several years, Parks said.