PnuVax Inc has received a $29.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop and clinically evaluate its pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Milestone payments will be received over the next three years as the vaccine progresses from process development through to biomanufacturing scale-up and proof-of-concept clinical trials, according to the company.

Despite the current commercial availability of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, pneumonia remains the single leading cause of death for children under 5 years of age worldwide. “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,” said PnuVax Co-Founder Jonas Elliott Gerson.

PnuVax’s vaccine provides coverage against multiple serotypes, or distinct variations, of the pneumonia-causing pneumococcus bacterium. Use of PnuVax’s unique patented conjugation platform technology to produce the vaccine is expected to speed up biomanufacturing and increase yield for a greatly reduced per-dose cost. PnuVax plans to manufacture its vaccine in Montreal, Canada using innovative methods to create a low-cost product to be distributed to the developing world via Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Unicef, to the world’s poorest communities, significantly increasing access.

“Creating a healthy marketplace for vaccines is crucial to our efforts to protect every child through immunization,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, “That’s why this grant to a potential new and innovative supplier is so important. Gavi has now helped 58 countries to introduce pneumococcal vaccine since our support started in 2009 and coverage is steadily increasing. This vaccine is at the forefront of our fight against pneumonia.”