Biopharmaceutical manufacturer Batavia Biosciences is joining an international consortium to sustain a polio-free world once the disease has been eradicated.

The partnership, coordinated by international health organisation PATH and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on the development and manufacture of a more effective polio vaccine- novel oral poliovirus vaccine (nOPV).

The nOPV candidates are designed to be safe and effective vaccines with a lower risk of vaccine-derived transmission.

It is thought that nOPVs will provide a solution to the shortcomings of the two existing vaccines. Inactivated polio vaccines do not prevent person-to-person transmission, and oral polio vaccines occasionally cause vaccine-derived transmission, in which the virus used in the vaccine mutates and causes new cases of polio.

With global polio eradication on the horizon, the new vaccine is intended to be stockpiled to act as protection against possible future outbreaks of the disease.

The nOPV candidates, which were developed by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in the United Kingdom, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the University of California at San Francisco, are currently being manufactured by Batavia Biosciences.

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According to PATH, two nOPV candidates for poliovirus type two are being tested in phase I trials at the University of Antwerp, and candidates against types one and three are in preclinical development in preparation for clinical trials.

Chris Yallop, CSO of Batavia Biosciences, said: “With such a consortium, I am convinced that we will succeed in taking the next step in the development of this much needed vaccine.”

Polio is a highly infectious virus that affects the nervous system and can cause muscle weakness and permanent paralysis.  Since 1988, there has been a 99% reduction in the number of polio cases worldwide. With just 21 cases of wild polio diagnosed globally in 2017, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative aims to have a polio-free world in 2018.

The last polio-endemic countries- Afghanistan and Pakistan and Nigeria- are the focus of continued efforts to permanently eradicate the disease.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it will pay off  Nigeria’s $76m debt to Japan to help eradicate polio in the country.

Menzo Havenga, CEO of Batavia Biosciences, states: “We are proud to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH, NIBSC and BioFarma, and on the goal of bringing a safer oral polio vaccine to help keep the world polio-free.”