When COVID-19 first hit New Zealand’s shores Fonterra stepped up to help make hand sanitiser and some of its employees volunteered their time to make face masks. Now the Co-op’s offering another hand – this time to help develop a vaccine.
Fonterra’s doing that by lending a crucial piece of equipment – a small homogeniser – to the Covid-19 Vaccine Corporation (CVC) to help speed up the company’s efforts towards producing a vaccine in New Zealand.
“We always like to help out where we can, so when the team came and asked if they could borrow a homogeniser from the Fonterra Research and Development Centre, we quickly worked to free up the equipment for CVC. This could be good not just for CVC but good for New Zealand and the rest of the world.”
CVC Chief Executive Dr Robert Feldman says the process of developing a vaccine requires “the use of many types of specialised equipment, some of which can be challenging to get access to. We are therefore very pleased to be able to access Fonterra’s resources and apply sophisticated equipment to the manufacture of our vaccine candidate.”
Developing a vaccine is a technical process that involves the production of tiny biobeads that’re coated in protein or polypeptide. CVC is coating these biobeads in carefully chosen components from the SARS-Cov-2 virus. The biobeads and coating are simultaneously manufactured inside bacteria which is an efficient method of production.
Fonterra’s equipment is being used to break open the bacteria in which CVC’s vaccine biobeads are made. “Once the biobeads are released, we remove contaminating bacterial residues and end up with a pure vaccine preparation ready for injection,” says CVC Chief Operating Officer Dr Andy Herbert.
Fonterra Director of Category, Strategy and Innovation, Mark Piper
The partnership between Fonterra and CVC follows the Government’s announcement that it’s contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to onshore and offshore efforts to produce and obtain a Covid-19 vaccine for New Zealanders and its Pacific partners.
Dr Robert Feldman says the Government’s funding announcement is welcome and says CVC’s vaccine “uses an approach that is different from other candidates being developed around the world.” He adds, CVC believes it “will generate a strong and broad immune response while being efficient to manufacture. We hope to be an integral part our Government’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy.”
The company estimates its first clinical trials would take place at the start of 2022 and would cost around $8 million to complete. It’s already in partnership with the University of Auckland, Callaghan Innovation, and Ardigen. And by getting a helping hand from Fonterra, there’s a better chance they’ll keep that ambitious schedule to help New Zealanders against COVID-19.