Crucell NV's ongoing collaboration with Harvard Medical School to develop vaccine technology using adenovirus-based vectors received a $19.2 million boost from the National Institutes of Health.
The NIH grant will fund the development of vaccines against HIV/AIDS. Crucell is expected to receive about $8.1 million of those funds for further development of AdVac, its platform technology designed to create recombinant vaccines by inserting a small piece of genetic material from a virus into a harmless adenoviral vector. Recombinant vaccines work by triggering an immune response against the infection.
For the past two years, researchers at Crucell and Harvard have developed the technology, incorporating next-generation vaccine vectors based on rare human adenoviruses. The new five-year grant from NIH concentrates efforts in the area of HIV-1. The company's chief scientific officer, Jaap Goudsmit, and Dan Barouch, of Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will lead development efforts.
Representatives from Crucell, headquartered in Leiden, the Netherlands, could not be reached for comment.
The collaboration with Harvard complements some of Crucell's other partnered projects in the HIV/AIDS space. A program conducted with Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co. Inc. is in Phase II proof-of-concept studies, combining Merck's vector system and Crucell's PER.C6 production technology. Crucell also has started preclinical work on adenovirus vector-based HIV vaccines with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
Crucell leverages its PER.C6 technology, which serves as the basis for discovery platforms, including AdVac for vaccines and MAbstract for antibodies, and has entered collaboration or licensing agreements with nearly 50 other companies and government agencies. Most of the products are in preclinical development for undisclosed disease targets, but one partner, Gaithersburg, Md.-based GenVec Inc., is in Phase II trials for its gene therapy product to treat cardiovascular disease.
Of its $12.2 million in total revenue for the second quarter, Crucell reported that $7.8 million of that had come from licensing fees. Government grants brought in about $1 million last quarter.
In April, Crucell received a $27.6 million manufacturing contract with the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for work on an Ebola vaccine using an adenoviral vector and PER.C6 cell line technology. Crucell agreed to manufacture up to 10 batches of the vaccine to be used in Phase I and early Phase II studies. Plans also include using the developed Ebola vaccine to create vaccines against Marburg and Lassa, while another adenovirus vector program focuses on treating malaria.
A vaccine for West Nile virus is expected to enter the clinic by the end of the year.
Crucell's influenza vaccine production partner, Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis Group, recently received a $97 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to accelerate the licensure in the U.S. of a PER.C6-based cell-culture vaccine and manufacturing facility. That project is part of the U.S. government's effort to increase influenza vaccine production capacity in the event of a pandemic or other influenza health emergency.
Crucell, which ended the second quarter with a net loss of about $4.2 million, had cash and cash equivalents of $141.1 million. The company's shares (NASDAQ:CRXL) gained 23 cents Monday to close at $22.13.