PPD is beefing up its vaccine development efforts through a collaborative agreement with preclinical contract research organization Southern Research Institute and the creation of the PPD Vaccines and Biologics Center of Excellence.
Under the terms of the agreement with Southern Research, the two companies will collaborate on projects involving pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccine research. Southern Research is transferring its seasonal influenza serology assays to PPD and will refer clients interested in seasonal influenza—including H1N1—vaccine testing services to PPD. In return, PPD will refer to Southern Research clients seeking clinical pandemic/highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) vaccine testing services.
“Southern Research is well known in the preclinical influenza space, and our agreement provides us with a partner to either subcontract these services or refer them as stand alone,” said Christine Dingivan, M.D., PPD’s chief medical officer. “Our agreement with Southern Research gives us immediate access to seasonal influenza vaccine assays and reagents that expand our comprehensive collection of commercial vaccine assays. It is more advantageous for us to partner with an industry leader in the influenza field to gain these assays rather than developing them internally so that we can immediately begin offering these complex assays to our clients.”
PPD has provided vaccine development services—specializing in infectious diseases, oncology and central nervous system disorders—for 20 years. Southern Research focuses on assays for influenza vaccine sample testing and has helped develop vaccines and antivirals for both seasonal and highly pathogenic influenza. The company also provides serology support for clinical trials of influenza vaccines, including vaccines for the latest pandemic flu.
Southern Research has worked with PPD since 2005, first as a subcontractor performing immunogenicity testing to support avian influenza A research as part of PPD’s contract with the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2008, the two companies began working indirectly as part of a collaborative group of contractors supported by the NIH for developing influenza A vaccines.
PPD is also launching a network of laboratory services focused specifically on vaccine and biologic drug development. The center will offer laboratory services to support development of products, such as vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, peptides, protein-drug conjugates and other biologics.
The company said that the PPD Vaccines and Biologics Center of Excellence will significantly expand the vaccine testing services PPD acquired from Merck last year. In that deal, PPD assumed control of Merck’s 130,000-square-foot vaccine testing laboratory and related equipment in Wayne, Pa., as well as 80 Merck employees who operated the facility. PPD signed a five-year contract with Merck to provide the pharma company a range of assay development and immunogenicity testing services as well as traditional central laboratory and sample storage services.
“PPD has been focused on expanding its laboratory and clinical trials services in the vaccines and biologics area since these fields are the fastest growing segments in the biopharmaceutical industry,” Dingivan said. “Many large pharmaceutical companies are investing research and investment resources on vaccines, and it is a therapeutic area where PPD can bring strong laboratory and clinical trial expertise to our clients.”