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Brown Cancer Center licenses new cancer vaccine

July 23rd, 2008

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Kenneth Palmer

University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center has licensed the technology for a second-generation vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV) to Advanced Cancer Therapeutics (ACT), a Louisville-based private company dedicated to bringing new anti-cancer therapies to market.

The vaccine, to be produced in tobacco plants, targets the HPV L2 protein. Vaccines currently on the market have a different target, the HPV L1 protein. Second-generation vaccines, based on the HPV L2 protein, may provide broader immune protection against a greater number of the more than 200 strains of HPV at a lower cost than current vaccines.

The intellectual property, licensed to ACT through UofL’s Office of Technology Transfer, is based on research by associate professor Kenneth Palmer, professor A. Bennett Jenson and their colleagues.

“The human papillomavirus is the leading cause of cervical cancer and is increasingly being implicated in other cancers, such as those of the head and neck. As we learn more about the virus, it is becoming even more important to be able to protect people from preventable cancers by vaccinating them against this disease,” Jenson said.

The current vaccine, Gardasil®, costs approximately $350 for the three-dose series. According to the World Health Organization, about 80 percent of the world’s 500,000 annual cases of cervical cancer occur in developing countries, where neither routine screening nor the vaccine is available or affordable.

“We hope that the technology we are using to manufacture this vaccine will yield a product at a cost that will facilitate its use in resource-poor areas of the world where vaccines against HPV are most needed,” Palmer said.

To bring the vaccine to market quickly, ACT also has licensed exclusive rights to GENEWARE®, a technology owned by Owensboro-based Kentucky BioProcessing, LLC (KBP). GENEWARE® uses an engineered tobacco mosaic virus to carry the L2 protein into the tobacco plant, where the plant’s natural growth reproduces the protein in larger quantities, producing the vaccine’s key ingredient in a cost-effective manner.

“Licensing these technologies together is extremely exciting,” said ACT President and CEO Randy Riggs.

“We are committed to moving as quickly as possible in the further progression of this vaccine toward use in humans and are proud to be doing it with know-how developed right here in Kentucky,” he added.

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