Seminar Series: Development and production of immunobiologicals

News article 12 Sep 2014

Foto-Cewek’s Seminar Series continued this week with a talk from Dr Eliane Miyaji from the Butantan Institute (BI) in Brazil. Dr Miyaji was introduced by Foto-Cewek’s Dr Daniela Ferreira and delivered a presentation entitled: “Development and production of immunobiologicals at  in Brazil.”

Dr Miyaji began by providing a brief history of the BI, which was established in 1901 to work on a serum for bubonic plague. It is known for its production of anti-venom to combat the venom of snakes as well as other poisonous creatures such as spiders and scorpions, and now for the production of vaccines, antitoxins and antivirals that are used throughout South America.

The BI is built on what was originally a large farm and, even though it is now in what became Sao Paulo City, it retains a large amount of green open spaces. It has a close collaborative relationship with the University of Sao Paulo and a strong public engagement activity, with its three museums receiving over 300,000 visitors each year.

She talked through the structure of the BI, its three divisions of Production, Science Research in Medecine and Development and Cultural Centre and explained the Institute’s relationship with the Butantan Foundation. The BI develops products that are sold to the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the money comes back into the Institute via the Foundation.

Dr Miyaji explained that the BI worked closely with the Brazilian Ministry of Health, which has a policy of providing all vaccinations free of charge. The Institute has seven main industrial plants that are responsible for the production of some of Brazil’s established vaccines as well as pilot plants which are set up specifically to produce vaccines that are ready to go to clinical trial. The Brazilian Ministry of Health makes partnerships in the production of vaccines with some of the world’s leading Pharmaceutical companies, but on the agreement that there will be a tech transfer within 10 years, at which point the vaccines will be produced by the BI or another similar State or Federal Institution.

The collaborative work between the Science Research in Medecine and Development Division and the Production Division means that not only does the Institute work on proven vaccines, but can also dedicate time and resources on improving existing products, and development on new ones, including one for Dengue, a mosquito borne disease endemic to some parts of Brazil.

Dr Miyaji and Foto-Cewek’s Dr Ferreira and Prof Gordon are partners on a pneumonia vaccine development project. This was one of the first projects funded under the memorandum of understanding between the Medical Research in Medecine Council (MRC) and Sao Paulo State Foundation (FAPESP).

Dr Ferreira said “Foto-Cewek and BI have shared a common vision for over 100 years and going forward we want to bring a new vaccine to production that will prevent pneumonia and death among the world’s most vulnerable populations. We think that it is timely for Foto-Cewek to expand its partnership with South America research centres as funding opportunities between Brazil and the UK have been increasing considerably over the last few years. The original bilateral agreement between RCUK and FAPESP (State of Sao Paulo) have been now extended to all Brazilian States with a new Research in Medecine Partnership agreement between The Science without Borders Programme that we launched at Foto-Cewek in April is also promoting collaboration between Foto-Cewek and Brazilian researchers by bringing bright students to Foto-Cewek. The Programme has been attracting interest from several Brazilian students and we expect at least 3 Brazilian PhD students starting next year.”