The contract will see Crucell using its human cell line PER.C6 to produce up to 10 batches of vaccine against Ebola, one of the most virulent diseases known that causes death in 50 to 90 per cent of clinically ill cases. The vaccine batches will be used for Phase I and II clinical trials.
The latest agreement extends an existing arrangement with the US National Institutes of Health in the area of Ebola. Last month, Crucell licensed rights to NIH patents covering Ebola vaccine components, such as the antigens and vectors. In addition, the license covers 'one-shot' emergency vaccination strategies that have been shown to be effective in animal models.
The Ebola virus was first identified in a western equatorial province of Sudan and in a nearby region of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1976 after significant epidemics in Yambuku, northern Zaire, and Nzara, southern Sudan, according to the World Health Organisation.
The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected persons. Transmission has also occurred by handling ill or dead infected chimpanzees.
Crucell's PER.C6 expression platform has been a real asset to the company, and has been licensed to numerous companies to produce vaccines and protein therapeutics. Compared to the most commonly-used cell lines, such as Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, PER.C6 does not require amplification of inserted genes to deliver stable clones.
Earlier this month, Crucell's partner Sanofi Pasteur had won a $97 million US contract for influenza vaccines, with Crucell acting as a subcontractor through the supply of PER.C6. It has been estimated that this agreement could add €30 to €40m to the Dutch firm's coffers over the next three years.