Biopharmaceutical drugs, since their inception, have enabled the prevention and transformed the treatment of a broad spectrum of diseases, and are increasingly used in nearly all branches of medicine. Patients suffering from diabetes, cancer, immune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and other health problems are benefitting from biopharmaceuticals, which provide safe and effective targeted treatments.
In recent years, the biopharmaceutical market has witnessed a steep rise in demand as compared to other drug markets. As this demand continues to rise, the industry provides a great potential for further dynamic growth in the future. PnuVax is catering to this increasing demand by working to provide high-quality biopharmaceuticals at lower costs to promote public health worldwide.
With branches in the United States and Canada, this biotech company specializes in the production of biopharmaceuticals through the use of advanced manufacturing techniques. PnuVax is on a mission to fill the current gap in access to lifesaving products, with the particular goal of serving low- and middle-income countries. PnuVax’s primary target markets include GAVI and UNICEF as well as recent graduates from GAVI—who may not currently qualify for public market doses of vaccines or other biopharmaceuticals yet face significant challenges in affording private market pricing. PnuVax’s leadership team includes veterans with over 30 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, from research to full-scale production.
A Team on a Mission
Jonas Gerson and Allison Turner (Co-founders), along with Dr. Donald Gerson (currently serving as President and Chief Executive Officer) founded PnuVax in 2008 after realizing the single leading cause of childhood death worldwide is still pneumonia despite the existence of multiple commercially available licensed vaccines priced too high for much of the world.
Jonas has a MASc in chemical engineering from Queen’s University, Canada. His previous roles include biopharmaceutical engineering and fuel cell research. As the Director of Operations at PnuVax, Jonas oversees product licensing and manufacturing, and delivery of vaccines including those for pneumonia and yellow fever.
Allison is a development engineer by training and has a MASc in chemical engineering from Queen’s University, Canada. Allison held academic research and teaching appointments while cofounding PnuVax in 2008. At PnuVax, she is the Director of Development and leads the vaccine R&D team with a focus on scale-up and manufacturing for diseases such as pneumonia.
Donaldhas extensive experience in vaccine and biopharma manufacturing management. Throughout his distinguished career, Donald has produced numerous vaccines to prevent and treat infectious diseases, including experimental vaccines for HIV and the first conjugate vaccines to prevent pneumonia, meningitis, and Hib. He has also designed and constructed several biotech facilities around the world. Together, these professionals are a formidable team dedicated to the growth of the company.
Highest Quality, Affordable Products
PnuVax targets the manufacture of prevention and treatment of neglected diseases using the best available technology to create the highest quality and affordable products for both developed and developing nations.
The company’s past and present pipeline includes a range of vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases including various candidate monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapeutic proteins for the treatment of coronaviruses.
Dedicated Vaccine Manufacturing Efforts
Since 2013, PnuVax has particularly focused on further developing and clinically evaluating its innovative lower cost pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Addressing the threat of pneumonia for children across the globe, Jonas said, “Children are still dying of preventable diseases such as pneumonia worldwide, largely due to high dosage costs and supply shortages that can thwart delivery to developing countries.”
PnuVax’s unique patented conjugation platform technology allows for rapid biomanufacturing and increased efficiency for a greatly reduced price per dose. Besides aiding the international community, PnuVax also intends to provide this vaccine to Canadians at a reduced cost, especially those in communities most in need.
In 2016, PnuVax acquired inactivated yellow fever vaccine intellectual property from GE Healthcare. Under the terms of the agreement, PnuVax purchased a GE Healthcare Life Sciences FlexFactory™ biomanufacturing platform. Talking about the acquisition, Donald said, “We believe the benefits of the single-use based FlexFactory system will allow localization of Yellow Fever Vaccine Production to endemic areas and will provide a platform for manufacturing other similar vaccines to respond to emerging pathogens in the future.”
Thriving through Challenges
As a growing landscape, biotechnology and biopharma have undergone numerous changes over the years. Allison believes that there is a need to move from isolated efforts to networked solutions, with a collaborative approach to solving the world’s public health problems. Expressing her views on the impact of the pandemic on the industry, she asserts, “COVID-19 has brought into focus the fact that there is no such thing as a local infectious disease, no such thing as an isolated problem.”
Like any biotech startup, PnuVax also faced challenges induced by the pandemic. “This is a difficult industry, and as with any startup, companies in a pre-clinical phase like PnuVax need to remain on their critical path and adapt as needed,” adds Allison. Heeding the increasing demand for lower cost COVID-19 related products for developing countries, PnuVax is now also working on a lower-cost mAb and vaccine through partnership to treat COVID-19, in addition to its ongoing work to develop, evaluate, and launch lower cost vaccines for pneumonia, yellow fever, and other infectious diseases.
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