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Posts Tagged ‘Merck & Co Inc’


The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on Vaccines and Philimmune, LLC

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D

I am intending to do a series of posts highlighting interviews with Philadelphia area biotech startup CEO’s and show how a vibrant biotech startup scene is evolving in the city as well as the Delaware Valley area. Philadelphia has been home to some of the nation’s oldest biotechs including Cephalon, Centocor, hundreds of spinouts from a multitude of universities as well as home of the first cloned animal (a frog), the first transgenic mouse, and Nobel laureates in the field of molecular biology and genetics. Although some recent disheartening news about the fall in rankings of Philadelphia as a biotech hub and recent remarks by CEO’s of former area companies has dominated the news, biotech incubators like the University City Science Center and Bucks County Biotechnology Center as well as a reinvigorated investment community (like PCCI and MABA) are bringing Philadelphia back. And although much work is needed to bring the Philadelphia area back to its former glory days (including political will at the state level) there are many bright spots such as the innovative young companies as outlined in these posts.

First up I got to talk with Florian Schodel, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Philimmune, which provides expertise in medicine, clinical and regulatory development and analytical sciences to support successful development and registration of vaccines and biologics. Before founding Philimmune, Dr. Schodel was VP in Vaccines Clinical Research of Merck Research Laboratories and has led EU vaccine clinical trials and the clinical development of rotavirus, measles, mumps, hepatitis B, and rubella vaccines. In addition Dr. Schodel and Philimmune consult on several vaccine development efforts at numerous biotech companies including:

 

\His specialties and services include: vaccines and biologics development strategy, clinical development, clinical operations, strategic planning and alliances, international collaborations, analytical and assay development, project and portfolio integration and leadership.

Successful development of vaccines and biologics poses some unique challenges: including sterile manufacturing and substantial early capital investment before initiated clinical trials, assay development for clinical trial support, and unique trail design. Therefore vaccines and biologics development is a highly collaborative process between several disciplines.

The Philadelphia area has a rich history in vaccine development including the discovery and development of the rubella, cytomegaolovirus, a rabies, and the oral polio vaccine at the Wistar Institute. Dr. Schodel answered a few questions on the state of vaccine development and current efforts in the Philadelphia area, including recent efforts by companies such as GSK’s efforts and Inovio’s efforts developing an Ebola vaccine.

In his opinion, Dr. Schodel believes our biggest hurdle in vaccine development in a societal issue, not a preclinic development issue. Great advances have been made to speed the discovery process and enhance quality assurance of manufacture capabilities like

however there has not been a great history or support for developing vaccines for the plethora of infectious diseases seen in the developing world. As Dr. Schodel pointed out, there are relatively few players in the field, and tough to get those few players excited for investing in new targets.

 

However, some companies are rapidly expanding their vaccine portfolios including

 

 

Why haven’t 3rd world countries developed their own vaccine programs?

 

  1. Hard to find partners willing to invest and support development
  2. Developing nations don’t have the money or infrastructure to support health programs
  3. Doctors in these countries need to be educated on how to conduct trials, conduct vaccine programs like Gates Foundation does. For more information see Nature paper on obstacles to vaccine introduction in third world countries.

 

Lastly, Dr. Schodel touched on a growing area, cancer vaccine development. Recent advances in bladder cancer vaccine, cervical, and promising results in an early phase metastatic breast cancer vaccine trial and phase I oral cancer vaccine trial have reinvigorated this field of cancer vaccinology.

 

Historic Timeline of Vaccine Development

vaccine development timeline

Graphic from http://en.pedaily.cn/Item.aspx?id=194125

 

Other posts on this site related to Biotech Startups in Philadelphia and some additional posts on infectious disease include:

 

RAbD Biotech Presents at 1st Pitch Life Sciences-Philadelphia

LytPhage Presents at 1st Pitch Life Sciences-Philadelphia

Hastke Inc. Presents at 1st Pitch Life Sciences-Philadelphia

1st Pitch Life Science- Philadelphia- What VCs Really Think of your Pitch

The History of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology in the late 19th and 20th Century

 

 

 

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