28 July, 2012

from RT Website



Pentagon’s cutting edge research lab says that

they’ve used a massive harvest of tobacco plants

to help produce a plethora of flu-fighting vaccines.

The Pentagon’s DARPA lab has announced a milestone, but it doesn’t involve drones or death missiles.


Scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency say they’ve produced 10 million doses of an influenza vaccine in only one month’s time. In a press release out of the agency’s office this week, scientists with DARPA say they’ve reach an important step in being able to combat a flu pandemic that might someday decimate the Earth’s population.


By working with the Medicago Inc. vaccine company, the Pentagon’s cutting edge research lab says that they’ve used a massive harvest of tobacco plants to help produce a plethora of flu-fighting vaccines.

“Testing confirmed that a single dose of the H1N1 VLP influenza vaccine candidate induced protective levels of hemagglutinin antibodies in an animal model when combined with a standard aluminum adjuvant,” the agency writes, while still noting, though, that “the equivalent dose required to protect humans from natural disease can only be determined by future, prospective clinical trials.”

Researchers have before relied on using chicken eggs to harvest compounds to use in influenza vaccines.


With a future outbreak requiring scientists to step up with a solution as soon as possible, though, they’ve turned to tobacco plants to help produce the vaccines.

“Vaccinating susceptible populations during the initial stage of a pandemic is critical to containment,” Dr. Alan Magill, DARPA program manager, says in an official statement.


“We’re looking at plant-based solutions to vaccine production as a more rapid and efficient alternative to the standard egg-based technologies, and the research is very promising.”

The World Health Organization has gone on the record to say that as much as half of the people on the planet could be affected by a pandemic in the near future, and it could take as much as nine months for a vaccine for a pandemic virus strain to become made available.


With the lives of billions of people across the world at stake, DARPA has been trying to determine new ways of churning out antidotes in as little time as possible.


Now its researchers say, that in only a month, scientists,

“produced more than 10 million doses (as defined in an animal model) of an H1N1 influenza vaccine candidate based on virus-like particles (VLP).”

Through DARPA’s previously established Blue Angel program (below insert), researchers have spent several years searching for new ways to produce mass quantities of vaccine-grade protein that could be used to combat what they say are very real emerging and novel biological threats.





-   H1N1 Acceleration   -

Blue Angel

from DARPA Website

In May 2009, DARPA initiated the Blue Angel effort to identify ongoing programs to assist in the Government-wide response to the H1N1 pandemic.


The Blue Angel program is an accelerated and integrated effort to deliver effective interventions for pandemic influenza.


Blue Angel brings together the following technologies to form a comprehensive approach in response to a pandemic influenza or manmade outbreak:

  • Predicting Health and Disease (PHD), a program to predict and diagnose individuals exposed to influenza before they are symptomatic

  • Modular IMmune In vitro Constructs (MIMIC®), a program to identify safe and effective treatments in a test tube

  • Accelerated Manufacture of Pharmaceuticals (AMP), a capability for rapidly mass producing low-cost, vaccine-grade recombinant protein that has the potential for scale up to tens of millions of doses per month

In response to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, Blue Angel programs are currently in a "live-fire test" to demonstrate a flexible and agile capability for the Defense Department to rapidly react and neutralize any natural or intentional pandemic disease.

  1. Predicting Health and Disease (PHD):

    PHD has developed a method for determining who will or will not become sick after exposure to a virus many days before symptoms appear, typically within 10 percent of the incubation period of a particular virus. This is accomplished using a highly accurate, mRNA-based blood test.


    By identifying key biomarkers for host response to respiratory viral infections, PHD can categorize viral-exposed individuals into specific categories - those who will be sick, those individuals who are contagious, and those who are well.


    Accuracy of this method is 85-90 percent within hours of viral exposure and achieves near 100-percent detection after a few days. High accuracy of detection enables prevention, prediction of disease propagation, and appropriate early treatment of infected individuals.

  2. Accelerated Manufacture of Pharmaceuticals (AMP):

    This program seeks to identify new ways to produce large amounts of high-quality vaccine-grade protein in less than 3 months in response to emerging and novel biologic threats.


    In response to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, as a "live-fire test," the plant platform redirected its rapid scale-up process developed for avian influenza to the new H1N1 virus and produced a recombinant protein within 4 weeks.

  3. Modular IMmune In vitro Constructs (MIMIC®):

    As animal studies are not always a good predictor of a vaccine's safety and efficacy in a human, the MIMIC® system will work in parallel with the AMP program to test the subunit of vaccine produced under the AMP program to ensure it is safe and immunogenic.



Andy Sheldon, Chief Executive Officer of Medicago , says in the company’s own press release that

"The completion of the rapid fire test marks a substantial achievement in demonstrating our technology and the potential for Medicago to be the first responder in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak.”

Medicago’s research was conducted in a 97,000-square-foot vaccine facility in North Carolina that was funded through a $21 million Technology Investment Agreement with DARPA.