Axis Genetics plc, of Cambridge, U.K., which is developing vaccines from plants, has agreed to a deal with Roche Vitamins Inc. to evaluate Axis┬┐ Epicoat oral vaccines in animal nutrition and health.

Axis also announced that it has been granted a U.S. patent for its Epicoat technology, which allows for modifying plant viruses so they display antigens of choice, derived from plant or animal pathogens, on their surfaces. The resultant particles are multiplied cost-effectively by the plant, before being extracted for use as an animal or plant vaccine.

Under the agreement with Roche Vitamins, a subsidiary of F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, the partners will determine whether oral administration of such vaccines can stimulate mucosal immunity in the gastrointestinal tracts of farm animals. Axis has already demonstrated that injection of an Epicoat canine parvovirus vaccine protected dogs following challenge, and has developed a cancer vaccine that elicits a strong antibody response in mice.

The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but it includes a fee-bearing option for Roche to obtain a license for use of Epicoat vaccines in animals. ┬┐ Nuala Moran

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