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A Large-Scale Research Project by a Dutch Consortium Addressing a Global Problem

Development of Novel Strategies to Induce and Monitor Humoral and Cellular

Immunity to Protect Hosts From Infection by Respiratory Viruses

LEIDEN, The Netherlands, September 11 /PRNewswire/ -- A new and promising research project of Top Institute Pharma is being conducted by a multi-member Dutch consortium with expertise in the fields of virology, immunology and vaccine development. The aim of the project is to develop novel strategies to induce and monitor the humoral and cellular immunity that protects the host from respiratory virus infections. This project has a budget of almost 4 million Euros. One of its aims is to reduce the risk of a pandemic outbreak of influenza, that may emerge from the current avian influenza threat to humans. The partners in the project are Solvay Pharmaceuticals B.V., Nobilon International B.V., OctoPlus N.V., ViroClinics B.V., Virosome Biologicals B.V., the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, Leiden University, the University Medical Center Groningen, Utrecht University and the Netherlands Vaccine Institute.

The project is an initiative of Top Institute Pharma, a public-private partnership that was founded in 2006. TI Pharma forms consortia of industrial and academic research teams who conduct ground-breaking, cross-disciplinary research. Its personnel are trained in improving the efficiency of the entire drug discovery and development process. Each year, the Dutch government provides 30 million Euros in funding for the top institute. The pharmaceutical industry and academia each contribute an additional 15 million Euros annually. TI Pharma is aiming to become an international leader in research, training and education.

Professor Ab Osterhaus, principal investigator: "This is a unique project, because it combines the expertise and knowledge from the fields of virology, immunology and vaccine development of prominent industrial partners, knowledge institutes, medical centers and universities. Therefore, we hope for ground-breaking results."

Respiratory viruses are the cause of a large burden of disease in humans and although effective vaccines exist to protect against seasonal influenza, no vaccines are currently available for other important human respiratory viral diseases such as avian influenza, pandemic influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. There are a number of reasons for this: an incomplete understanding of the correlates of (vaccine-induced) protection against these infections that stems from research activities whose focus is too limited, inadequate research tools, and because efficient vaccine delivery systems for humans are largely lacking.

Principal investigator Professor Osterhaus: "This project aims to fill these knowledge gaps in the prevention of respiratory virus infections through developing a set of tools to enable us to better understand the roles of both the humoral and the cellular arms of the adaptive immune system, stimulated by virus infection and vaccination. Other aims of the project are to develop novel vaccines based on antigens produced by new manufacturing systems and with innovative delivery systems, that will induce both humoral and cellular immunity. Pandemic influenza will be used as the primary model disease as it is considered a major threat and is part of the World Health Organization's Priority Medicines program. Certain aspects of the work will be extended to the development of intervention strategies for RSV infection."

Most seasonal influenza vaccines are inactivated, subunit, whole- or split-virus vaccines. Vaccines for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain H5N1, which may well be the basis of the next pandemic in humans, have been modelled on such seasonal vaccines but have been proven to be poorly immunogenic in humans as large doses are required to obtain a modest and highly restricted immune response. This is likely because seasonal vaccination acts to boost existing immunity, while the immune systems of the general population are naive to the H5N1 virus. Professor Osterhaus: "Given these results, and the insufficient manufacturing capacity for influenza vaccines in general, it is imperative to develop a novel generation of vaccines that will enable an increase in manufacturing capacity, enhanced immunoprotection and vaccination requiring less injections, allowing maximum protection worldwide."

About OctoPlus

OctoPlus N.V. (Euronext: OCTO) is a biopharmaceutical company creating improved pharmaceutical products that are based on OctoPlus' drug delivery technologies and have fewer side effects, improved patient convenience and a better tolerability than existing products. The Company currently has 4 products in preclinical and clinical development. In addition, OctoPlus is a leading provider of drug formulation and clinical scale manufacturing services, with a focus on difficult to formulate active pharmaceutical ingredients in injectable formulations. For more information about OctoPlus, please visit our website

About Nobilon

Nobilon International BV, part of Organon, a biopharmaceutical business unit of Akzo Nobel, was founded in 2003. It has production and R&D facilities in Boxmeer and Oss, the Netherlands. The biotechnology company is dedicated to develop, produce and market human vaccines against infectious diseases, building on existing expertise within sister companies Intervet and Organon. Nobilon focuses on respiratory and traveller's diseases. One of its core expertises is large scale cell culture production of viruses, including influenza. Nobilon currently employs approximately 75 staff in production and R&D.

About Solvay Pharmaceuticals

Solvay Pharmaceuticals is a research driven group of companies that constitute the global pharmaceutical business of the Solvay Group. The company seeks to fulfill carefully selected, unmet medical needs in the therapeutic areas of neuroscience, cardiometabolic, influenza vaccines, gastroenterology, and men's and women's health. Its 2006 sales were EUR 2.6 billion and it employs approximately 10,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit Solvay Pharmaceuticals B.V. is active in the Netherlands and employs about 1,300 people.


LACDR is a center of excellence in innovative drug research and education. Its research focus is the development of novel concepts, and developing the knowledge and expertise that make drug discovery, evaluation and clinical application possible. This includes a fundamental understanding of drug actions as the basis for evaluating efficacy and safety. For more information, visit

About the Netherlands Vaccine Institute

The Netherlands Vaccine Institute, as one of the few institutes in the world, buys, produces and develops vaccines under the authority of the government. The NVI protects the Dutch population against infectious diseases by supplying vaccines under normal as well as extraordinary circumstances. To achieve this, NVI has expert knowledge about all aspects of the vaccine value chain, ranging from top class research & development and clinical trials to high standard pharmaceutical production and distribution. For more information, visit

About Virosome Biologicals B.V.

Virosome Biologicals B.V. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Norwood Immunology Limited (NIM), having been acquired in November 2006. NIM is a group focused on technologies and therapies to activate and manipulate the immune system, through two platforms: use of temporary sex steroid suppression to effect rejuvenation of the thymus and bone marrow, with resulting enhancement of T cell function and immune responsiveness; and the development of adjuvanted virosomes for vaccines based and as a delivery mechanism for SiRNA. NIM is quoted on the London AIM Exchange (AIM: NIM).

SOURCE Top Institute Pharma
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