Merck has joined the DiViNe project, a European consortium of six companies to address the biggest challenges facing the development, manufacture and delivery of vaccines. The objective of the DiViNe project is to create an integrated, cost-effective purification program specifically tailored for vaccines that achieves higher yields while preserving product integrity. Merck's specific focus will be on simplifying the process of vaccine purification that typically relies on affinity chromatography, a method of capturing antibodies. In support of this goal, Merck will be providing chromatographic materials and coupling technologies.
"Purification steps represent significant manufacturing costs for most biological drugs," said Udit Batra, member of the Merck Executive board and CEO, Life Science. "In targeting these inefficiencies we have an excellent opportunity to drastically improve rates of recovery. As an industry leader in chromatography, we look forward to contributing our expertise to the DiViNe consortium, helping to identify process efficiencies and supporting expanded access to affordable vaccines."
The DiViNe project's integrated purification platform will first be tested with diverse, heterogeneous vaccines including glycoconjugates, protein antigens and viruses. Once validated with vaccines, the consortium plans to implement its purification platform in downstream processes for other biologics, including recombinant proteins, gene therapy vectors and blood products.
Merck will be joined in the consortium by Affilogic (France), Aquaporin (Denmark), GenIbet Biopharmaceuticals (Portugal) and GlaxoSmithKline (Italy). The project will be coordinated by iBET (Portugal) and has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement N° 635770. The DiViNe project is part of Merck's larger vaccine initiative focusing on the biggest challenges around vaccines: costs, speed, accessibility and delivery.
The company has recently engaged with multiple global partners to support faster and more cost-effective development of new vaccines needed to fight diseases like Ebola, Zika and influenza. Other projects - such as DiViNe - aim to simplify manufacturing processes, making them more amenable to technology transfer to developing countries. Together, these vaccines initiatives will help expand access to high-quality healthcare, especially in low- and middle-income countries.