John Swinney MSP, Finance Secretary, today Tuesday 12th May, officially opened a new vaccine manufacturing facility at Big DNA, Roslin Biocentre, by Edinburgh. This major facility takes a completely new method of making vaccines to its next level, to test a variety of methods that will be used in future to manufacture important new vaccines, which have the potential to save millions of lives during major outbreaks of disease worldwide.
Conventional vaccines can be difficult and expensive to make, requiring specialist facilities and expertise, and sometimes fail to work for some diseases. The unique process developed by Dr. John March and his team at Big DNA Ltd uses self assembling nano-particles (bacterial viruses) called “bacteriophage” to deliver vaccines. These are grown cheaply and simply on special bacterial hosts cells and contain the genetic instructions (or DNA) rather than using the disease organism itself, which all conventional vaccines rely upon.
This new way to develop a vaccine is faster, cheaper and can be more effective, bringing great benefits to public health. Dr John March, founder of Big DNA Ltd says: “We are proud to be a Scottish-based life sciences company which has taken an exciting early stage technology and have actually developed it to the level where we aim to be entering clinical trials within the next couple of years.”
John Swinney MSP, Finance Secretary said: “This is excellent news for Scotland's life sciences sector in a challenging economic climate. Life science is an industry which can boost investment in Scotland, and with Scottish expertise, develop revolutionary technologies.”
“Successful companies such as Big DNA can enhance Scotland's place on the global stage for life sciences and help position Scotland's economy for a stronger recovery.”
Bacteriophage DNA vaccines offer the potential for extremely rapid development and manufacture, using relatively simple processes (weeks rather than months), important for pandemic influenza. In addition they offer the potential to be taken orally, eliminating the need for needles and injections and all their associated hazards. A range of vaccines are currently under development.
Big DNA Ltd raised £1.5million of private investment last year to fund the development of its unique patented technology – developing manufacturing processes for vaccines, and to go through the regulatory approvals process to develop the vaccines for clinical trials. “We continue to develop collaborative research ventures with academic and commercial bodies, a process which helps us all get the results we are after much more quickly,” continues Dr John March. For example, Big DNA has an important collaboration with colleagues in Beijing at the China Agricultural University to produce vaccines against chlamydia in pigs. Lord Freeman, formerly Minister of State for Public Transport and Defence Procurement Minister, is chairman of Big DNA.
further details from CAROL ANDERSON AND CAROLINE GRAHAM at The Business
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Notes to editors:
Despite recent controversies, vaccination is one the great success stories of modern medicine, most notably with the eradication of smallpox in 1977, which was estimated to have caused 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century. Polio has also been almost completely eradicated, with cases down from 350 000 per year before a global vaccination campaign started in 1988 to less than 2000 in 2006, with most countries world-wide being declared polio-free. Other once-common diseases such as measles, diphtheria, pertussis and rubella have seen a massive reduction in cases since the introduction of vaccination campaigns and are nearing eradication in many developed countries.
Dr John March, chief executive, Big DNA Ltd
Dr John March is a science graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has a BSc in Molecular Biology and a PhD in DNA Replication, and an MBA from the University of Dundee. He has held many important research positions including at the Dept of Molecular Biology at Edinburgh University, the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, and Harvard Medical School, Boston USA. He was a research fellow at the Centre for Genome Research University of Edinburgh. Amongst very many professional memberships, he sits on the review panel of DEFRA, Exotic Disease Research Programme. He is an enterprise fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, and an award winner of the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Award. He has published many papers on Bacteriophages and Biotechnology, vaccines, gene therapy and antibacterials, and holds patents for Bacteriophage-mediated immunisation.
Contact: Carol Anderson
Phone: 0131 718 6022