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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Best of Both Worlds

For most of the time since humankind’s first vaccination attempts – presumed to have taken place around 200 BC in China – vaccines have been derived from natural isolates. These are either closely related to the target, thereby causing weak illness such as smallpox and live attenuated-like rabies, or inactivated viruses like polio.

Attenuation may involve passing the original virus on to cell culture or chicken embryos to finally generate a virus that replicates in humans (or the respective target species, in the case of veterinary vaccines) without resulting in illness, but which induces an immune response that protects from further infection. Killed viruses – either inactivated by chemicals or heat – should not replicate at all, but still present the intact viral structure to the immune system. Common to both approaches is the potential risk of containing reverted or not fully inactivated viruses, which may cause a serious infection, especially for immune-compromised patients.

On the contrary, recombinant subunit vaccines do not contain potentially infectious material and are therefore 100% safe in terms of infection during administration and the production process. However, antigens residing in these subunit vaccines are often only weakly immunogenic and have to be formulated together with immune-stimulating adjuvants, which may be harmful as some of them are not approved at all for human use. Even if they were, adjuvants further add to the cost component of the final vaccine product.

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Dr Michael Piontek is Chief Executive Officer at ARTES Biotechnology GmbH and founded the company in May 2002. He has a track record in technology transfer of vaccine manufacturing processes and implementation at several production facilities in Asia and South America. With a team of 25 scientists, engineers and technicians, Michael continues to develop and market the METAVAX® platform for production of vaccines in several international collaborations with global vaccine manufacturers.
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Dr Michael Piontek
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