Biotechnology is not only revolutionizing the treatment of complex diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders; it is also transforming the way vaccines are being produced. “Egg-based vaccines are old fashioned as they still use viruses in their manufacturing process”, Alfredo Rimoch, CEO of Liomont, stated in an interview with Mexico Health Review 2016. “To produce recombinant DNA vaccines, viral genes are used to obtain proteins in a cleaner, safer, and faster way than traditional vaccines”, Rimoch explained.

Liomont is a Mexican company that has a leadership position in the private market for branded generics and OTC products. It has exhibited a double digit growth two times the industry average in the last years, allowing it to invest heavily in R&D and to develop new products in collaboration with UNAM Biotechnology Institute and CINVESTAV. It has also created partnerships with US-based companies – one of them resulting in the introduction of Flubok, the world’s first recombinant influenza vaccine, in Mexico. The company is currently building a new plant in Toluca, State of Mexico for the production of this vaccine as well as other products, including biosimilars.

Flu virus. Source: bbc.com

Flu virus. Source: bbc.com

Rimoch pointed out that the WHO publishes the most prevalent influenza strains affecting every region in the world on an annual basis, and that is how trivalent or quadrivalent vaccines are developed and administered. This year, the most prevalent strains are AH3N2, AH1N1, and influenza type B in Mexico City, the three of them being covered by the traditional vaccine. The recombinant vaccine will cover four influenza strains.

The development of Flubok was carried out by Protein Sciences Corporation and UNAM Biotechnology Institute. It no longer uses eggs, active viruses, stabilizers, or preservatives as all of the other influenza vaccines in the market. Moreover, in case of an epidemiological emergency it can be produced within three or four months, while it would take eight months for the typical vaccines to be available for delivery and administration. Rimoch is convinced that recombinant DNA technology is the future of vaccine production, especially at a time when people are so concerned about the suspected side effects of vaccines. COFEPRIS approved this vaccine in November 2015 and it is going to be available in August 2016.

How recombinant DNA vaccines work:

Instead of injecting the actual influenza virus into the human body, the biotechnology vaccine contains hemagglutinin – a protein that is essential for the virus to enter into body cells. To produce large amounts of hemagglutinin, the influenza virus’ DNA sequence encoding for it is inserted into a baculovirus expression system. The protein is then purified, transferred into a vial, and ready for administration. Once inside the body, the immune system will recognize and produce antibodies against this protein, creating immunization against different strains of influenza.

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