GE and iBio teamed up to develop biomanufacturing systems that use the latter's plant based production technology in 2010. The firms announced they had started work on designing a manufacturing plant for a then unnamed drugmaker in 2012.
iBio president Robert Erwin told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: “This is the first time that Fiocruz has been named as the pharmaceutical firm for whom GE and iBio are working on the manufacturing plant” and added that the project has now entered the construction design phase.
This was confirmed by GE who told us: “During this first phase GE Healthcare Life Sciences is heading the plant design work, providing design knowhow, expertize in process design and bioprocessing [and] supporting Fiocruz in their turn key vaccine project.”
iBio’s technology differs from both cell culture-based biomanufacturing methods as well as those that use transgenic plants. The approach is to insert a gene encoding the protein of interest into a plant virus, which is grown in the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumifaciens and then introduced into the leaves of green plants.
Erwin claims iBio’s system has numerous advantages over more traditional methods, ranging from the speed manufacturing can be initiated and lower capital costs to the increased safety of the final product.
There are also differences from a facility standpoint according to GE, who told us the biggest change from more traditional biomanufacturing construction projects relates to the upstream part of the manufacturing process.
“In a plant-based vaccine manufacturing plant the upstream part is basically a large green house with controlled environment necessary to optimize plant growth...whereas in a traditional cell culture-based production, upstream you’ll find a bioreactor farm in a clean room setting.”
Neither party was willing to say when the under construction Fiocruz plant will be up and running, however, both confirmed that discussions about future facility development projects are already underway.
Erwin went on to say that: “We do expect GE to be involved in additional design and construction projects we undertake. We are actively marketing the technology with them in several regions and for several applications.”
And, while he did not go into the specifics of future collaborations with GE, Erwin did confirm that a number of other drug manufacturers and institutions have adopted iBio’s technology.
“We recently announced a license transaction with Caliber Biotherapeutics. The technology is also being used under contracts with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Department of Defense, and the Sabin Institute - through our collaboration with Fraunhofer and under license from iBio. I'd always like to see business development move more rapidly!”