Hawaii Biotech in vaccine deal with Merck

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Biotech, developer of vaccines that work at the molecular level, has done a deal with Merck to acquire ownership of a family of vaccine patents, and to use Merck-licensed technology to continue its work.

The Aiea biotech sold its dengue vaccine to Merck ib 2010 and licensed technology from Merck in 2011 to pursue development of tick-borne encephalitis vaccine and malaria vaccine candidates.

In the new deal, Hawaii Biotech acquires ownership of a patent family to West Nile virus vaccine technology together with a non-exclusive license for Merck's recombinant protein expression technology.

"This transaction will enable HBI to continue the development of our vaccine for West Nile virus, an important emerging infectious disease.  It is a significant milestone for Hawaii Biotech," said CEO Elliot Parks in a statement Thursday morning.

The technical term for what Hawaii Biotech does is recombinant protein subunit vaccines. In plainer words, because these new vaccines work at the molecular level, they do not require cooked versions of the original virus. They are therefore safer, critical for fighting the worst infectious diseases.

"We appreciate the cooperation we have received from Merck, and we look forward to continuing the clinical development of this vaccine candidate," Parks said.

Hawaii Biotech is currently developing a Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic fever vaccine facilitated by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  Other subunit vaccines are also under development including a malaria vaccine in collaboration with academic researchers at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and a tick-borne flavivirus vaccine.

The company completed successful first-in-human Phase 1 clinical studies with both West Nile virus and dengue vaccines in healthy human subjects.

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