Washington Editor

Large Scale Biology Corp. and the University of Louisville initiated a collaborative program to jointly develop and evaluate therapeutics to prevent and treat diseases caused by human papillomaviruses.

Large Scale Biology Corp. (LSBC) will apply its Geneware gene-expression technology, as well as antibody immunotherapy, to develop new types of HPV therapeutics for managing papillomavirus-associated neoplastic diseases.

Daniel Tuse, vice president, business development for Vacaville, Calif.-based Large Scale, said the company wanted to work with scientists at the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center, because of their expertise in the disease area.

"They've done extensive work with these kinds of viruses, and we seek collaborators that are experts in preclinical and clinical research because that facilitates the product development efforts," he told BioWorld Today.

Also, through an economic development plan, the state of Kentucky will fund a portion of the research.

"Part of the money will support the operation at University of Louisville, and the other part will come to LSBC in California," Tuse said. "Eventually the payoff for the state of Kentucky is that if these products and are successful and go forward, they will be manufactured in Kentucky."

The company's commercial-scale biomanufacturing facility is located in Owensboro, Ky.

Large Scale's role in the deal will be to design and produce vaccine and antibody products, while university scientists evaluate the products in animal models of various HPV diseases. The new project will be led by Kenneth Palmer, director of Large Scale's vaccine program, in collaboration with Alfred Jenson and Shin-je Ghim at the Brown Cancer Center.

Large Scale said almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, as are many head and neck and other soft-tissue cancers. Those viruses often respond to vaccine and antibody therapy. Outside of cancer, HPVs are linked to other diseases including skin and genital warts.

In the latest version of the Geneware technology, Large Scale has produced hybrid vaccines consisting of HPV antigens fused to the plant viral coat protein. The new vaccine designs are stable and can be produced with manufacturing advantages over more conventional cell culture-based approaches, the company said.

Tuse said Large Scale uses tobacco plants to manufacture pharmaceuticals, thus the firm chose to work in Kentucky because it is one of the centers of expertise in tobacco cultivation.

"A lot of the farmers we use for production are family farms that have been at it for generations, the expertise is there and it gets them out of the traditional business of growing tobacco for smoking or chewing uses - now they are making pharmaceuticals," he said. "It is an interesting twist that tobacco can be used to produce medicines that treat or cure diseases, whereas before the plant has been implicated in causing some of them."