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Life Sciences Discovery Fund Awards $4.7 Million to Support New Vaccine Program
Date:12/16/2008

SEATTLE, Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The Washington Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) has awarded nearly $4.7 million to launch the start-up phase of the Washington Vaccine Alliance (WAVA) and to support initial research into three new vaccines for E. coli, herpes and syphilis. Announced today, the grant is funded by Washington's$350 million tobacco-lawsuit-settlement bonus and provides essential funding to bring this innovative new organization to life.

WAVA core operations during the initial startup phase will operate within the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

WAVA is a consortium of seven nonprofit-research institutions that is focused on providing the necessary skills and infrastructure to develop, test and deploy new or improved vaccines for many of the world's most challenging diseases. In addition to the Hutchinson Center, the consortium includes Battelle Pacific Northwest Division, Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), PATH, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI), University of Washington (UW), and Washington State University (WSU).

"This creative new consortium is a demonstration of the innovation and determination of the members to bring new vaccine solutions to world," said Harlan Patterson, executive director of WAVA.

Scientists at WAVA organizations are collectively researching about a dozen disease clusters that are potential candidates for vaccines and which have succeeded in winning major internationally focused research grants in infectious diseases. The WAVA structure will allow the member organizations to more effectively develop and share critical skills and facilities, help build economic activity for vaccines in Washington, and position the organizations to partner with commercial pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the final vaccine development and deployment stages.

"WAVA represents a chance for the state of Washington to become an international center recognized for both research and vaccine development," said Larry Corey, M.D., principal investigator of the LSDF-funded project and co-director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute at the Hutchinson Center. "The successful development and deployment of even one vaccine will have a significant impact on the health of the citizens and will provide a very cost-effective intervention to reduce overall health care costs."

The LSDF award provided critical funding to complete the first phases of three new vaccine projects and the ability to secure funding for the rest of the development process. The projects aim to:

-- Develop an E. coli vaccine for cattle (a joint effort of WSU, UW and the University of Idaho). Researchers will test and identify the best candidate for a vaccine that would reduce the level of E. Coli O157 in cattle to a level that would prevent transmission to humans via meat or waste.

-- Develop a herpes vaccine (a joint effort of the Hutchinson Center, IDRI and UW). Researchers will test and select the most effective vaccine formulations for phase 1 clinical trials.

-- Develop a syphilis vaccine (a joint effort of UW, IDRI and the University of Victoria). Researchers will test, evaluate and select the best vaccine formulation to complete preclinical development and then test in phase 1 clinical trials.

Initially, WAVA will create several core service centers that are critical to bring vaccines to market: discovery, development, production and deployment. These services will be extremely cost effective by taking advantage of existing expertise and sharing these resources across the larger portfolio of vaccine projects. Member organizations will contract with each other to speed the testing and development process. The service cores will each have a lead organization and include vaccine economics (PATH), protein expression and purification (SBRI), formulation and early testing (IDRI), proteomics (Battelle), immune monitoring (Hutchinson Center and UW). The Hutchinson Center will also oversee informatics and clinical trials design and management.

"Washington state has accumulated a critical mass of expertise in crucial areas necessary for the successful identification and development of vaccines. The creation of WAVA provides the catalyst to allow each member to create new programs that build upon the substantial existing successes," said King Holmes, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the UW Department of Global Health.

The portfolio of vaccine projects for WAVA covers major infectious diseases that await the development of effective and affordable vaccines. These include HIV, hepatitis C, influenza, diarrheal diseases (especially of infants and children), pneumonia of the elderly, sexually transmitted infections (such as genital herpes, syphilis, and chlamydia), and the pandemic infections of tuberculosis and malaria.

"The worldwide recognition of the potential for vaccines -- increased use of existing, improved and new -- creates the opportunity for the state of Washington to contribute to an unprecedented reduction of the human and financial costs of some of our greatest health challenges," said Chris Elias, M.D., M.P.H., president and CEO of PATH.

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit fhcrc.org.

About the Life Sciences Discovery Fund

The Life Sciences Discovery Fund, a Washington State agency established in May 2005, makes grant investments in innovative life sciences research to benefit Washington and its citizens. For more information on the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, visit: http://www.lsdfa.org.

     CONTACTS
     Dean Forbes                    Harlan Patterson (WAVA)
     206-605-0311                   206-434-1164
     dforbes@fhcrc.org              hpatters@fhcrc.org

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SOURCE Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
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