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Sustainable Squalene Replacement Needed for Pharma

By February 14, 2019No Comments

IDRI (Infectious Disease Research Institute) is pleased to announce a $4.4 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health) to discover sustainable alternatives  to shark squalene to use as vaccine adjuvants (grant number: R01AI135673). Funding is provided by a special bioengineering research grant aimed at bringing  engineering expertise to focus on  a biomedical problem and ultimately develop a new solution.

Adjuvants are added to vaccines to enhance their effectiveness; the aim of the new project is to discover and evaluate novel, sustainable squalene-like compounds produced by bio- or chemical engineering for vaccine adjuvant applications.

IDRI has selected Amyris and the University of Nottingham, (UK) as partners because of their record of success in engineering pure molecules from sustainable sources at low cost. Instead of sourcing squalene from sharks, Amyris uses patented biotechnology to create squalene-like compounds using sugarcane syrup as the fermentation feedstock. Amyris has developed specific expertise as a clean manufacturer of sustainably sourced squalene.

“While one of our goals is to find a replacement for the pharmaceutical squalene derived from sharks, another key driver of this project is to understand how squalene formulations actually work as adjuvants,” said Christopher Fox, PhD, Vice President of Formulations at IDRI and principal investigator for the project. “By generating compounds with various structural alterations, we can study the structure-function relationship of squalene-like molecules and shine a light on their mechanisms of action.”

Fox added that key attributes of adjuvants in vaccines are the ability to improve an immune response and minimize the dose of vaccine necessary to confer immunity, which is particularly important where there is a disease outbreak that results in a vaccine shortage. “Development of this technology could enable formulations that effectively increase the number of vaccine doses available in the event of an influenza pandemic for example,” Fox said.

“We’re pleased to assist IDRI and to work with the University of Nottingham in this endeavor,” Amyris President, Research & Development Joel Cherry, Ph.D. said. “Today, we’re producing enormous amounts of squalane for customers around the world. This is a sustainably sourced version of squalane, with high purity and performance, and we’re looking forward to lending our assistance to apply what we know to benefit more people.”