Bioscience firm funds commercial development of novel vaccine platform

'Isis' platform invented by University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture scientists in John K. Skeeles Poultry Health Laboratory

Nov. 21, 2011
Contact Information:

Dr. Nathan McKinney, Interim Assistant Director, Arkansas Agricultural Experiment
Station, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
479-575-6951, nmckinne@uark.edu

Mr. Tim Collard, Managing Director, Pacific GeneTech Limited, Hong Kong
(852) 2525 8151, tcollard@netvigator.com

Dr. Billy Hargis, Professor, John K. Skeeles Poultry Health Center,
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
479-466-8678, bhargis@uark.edu

Howell Medders, Agricultural Communication Services,
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
479-575-567, hmedders@uark.edu

Download story

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas Biosciences International LLC and its parent company, Pacific GeneTech, announced today that they have entered into a Sponsored Research Agreement (SRA) with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture for the expansion of research and development of a novel vaccine technology platform that was developed by the Division and licensed to Arkansas Biosciences in 2009.

Under the SRA, Arkansas Biosciences, based in Little Rock, has committed to fund over $500,000 for research and development of the technology platform, which it has named “Isis.” The platform was invented by a research team in the Division’s internationally recognized John K. Skeeles Poultry Health Laboratory. University of Arkansas Professor Billy Hargis is the lead scientist on the Isis technology platform project.

The research and development to be undertaken under the SRA is a continuation of the work partially funded by a grant from the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority in 2009 under the sponsorship of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Arkansas Biosciences matched the ASTA grant for commercial development of the technology.

Louis Bowen, Pacific GeneTech’s chairman and a University of Arkansas alumnus, said, “We have substantially increased our commitment in the technology developed by Dr. Hargis’ team to further develop novel vaccines and the Isis technology platform. We also plan to allocate similar investment amounts for additional commercialization activities including field testing, enhancement of the company’s intellectual property portfolio, and market development for the vaccines. This commitment of private sector capital is validation of the world-class technology that is being produced at the Poultry Health Laboratory.”

“This agreement is another example of the benefits realized by investing in research,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “While there’s never a guarantee on where the research will take us, we’ve seen positive results time and again that have helped create jobs for our state and technologies that improve our lives.”

U of A System Vice President for Agriculture Mark Cochran said, "Sponsored research is a key element for bridging the gap between laboratory research and a commercially viable product. We anticipate that Arkansas Biosciences and Dr. Hargis’s lab can, as a team, accomplish what neither organization could do alone.”

Hargis said he was “extremely pleased to see this research move toward commercial development” and noted that “the continued funding from Pacific GeneTech and Arkansas Biosciences for research and development in our laboratory is essential for sustaining ongoing development efforts and promoting improvements in this technology."

To date, the Isis technology platform has been successfully used under research conditions to induce robust immune responses against both Salmonella and Campylobacter infections of poultry and to protect against infection by these important food-borne infectious agents for humans, Hargis said. Similarly, immune responses against avian influenza and coccidiosis, a parasitic disease of poultry, have been demonstrated in laboratory research, he said. This opens up the possibility of the technology platform’s use against these and similar pathogens in other animal species and in humans, he added.

Hargis said the expanded scope of the work to be performed under the SRA includes novel vaccine approaches and additional pathogens of animals and humans. He said Isis uses harmless microorganisms to produce antigens, the primary components of a vaccine, and Isis vaccines can be orally administered. This, together with the relative simplicity of microbial fermentation, has major implications for the cost-effectiveness of Isis vaccines in terms of R&D, manufacture and application, Hargis said.

—30—


About Arkansas Biosciences and Pacific GeneTech

Arkansas Biosciences International LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pacific Genetech Limited, holds an exclusive, global license for vaccine technology from the University of Arkansas which can be used to combat infectious diseases in animals and humans. Pacific GeneTech (www.pacificgenetech.com) is a Hong Kong-based biotechnology company that acquires and develops vaccine technologies to address the escalating threat of emerging infectious diseases and other pathogens in both the developed and developing worlds.