Fonterra lends high-tech equipment to NZ’s Covid-19 vaccine developer to help speed up production

2 September 2020

Auckland: Fonterra is lending its high tech bioprocessing equipment to New Zealand Covid-19 Vaccine Corporation, to help speed up the company’s efforts towards producing a vaccine in New Zealand.  

“As CVC progresses its unique vaccine candidate, we require 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,” says CVC chief executive Dr Robert Feldman.  

CVC utilises a well-established technology originally developed at Massey University which enables the efficient production of tiny biobeads that are coated in any protein or polypeptide that is chosen.  

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 says it’s good to be able to help out in a small way.  

“We always like to help out where we can, so when the team came and asked if they could borrow a homogeniser from our Research 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.”   The partnership comes following the Government’s announcement yesterday, 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. 

To date, CVC has raised a million dollars in private company funding, following the initial $488,000 interim funding it received from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Covid-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund.  

“CVC is excited to hear about yesterday’s Government announcement and fully supports a strategy to bring a safe and effective vaccine to New Zealand. CVC’s candidate uses an approach that is different from other candidates being developed around the world that it believes 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,” explains Dr Robert Feldman.  

The company estimates its first clinical trials will conclude in early 2022 and would cost around $8 million to complete. It’s already in partnership with the University of Auckland, Callaghan Innovation, and Ardigen.  

CVC is made up of a group of lifelong biotech experts including Dr Robert Feldman who is a serial biotech entrepreneur and medical doctor with vaccine experience, Dr Andy Herbert, a pharmaceutical development and manufacturing expert, Tara Creaven-Capasso, a regulatory, quality and biotech expert with extensive international experience and Helen Teale, a global clinical trial management expert.  

The company is chaired by Jeff Douglas, managing director of Douglas Pharmaceuticals.