May 1 2002, Tampere Business
FIT Biotech´s GTU technology as the basis
FIT Biotech Oyj Plc, a company with operations in Tampere and in Tartu, Estonia, has begun HIV vaccine trials with human subjects. A specialist in medical biotechnology, the company is at the international forefront in vaccine development due to its GTU technology.
FIT Biotech began human trials with an HIV vaccine in Finland in December 2001. During the first stage, 15 HIV-positive patients participated in trials at the Helsinki University Hospital. In the second stage the test group will increase in size to a couple of hundred people, some HIV positive and some not. In the third and last stage there will be several thousand participants.
Pekka Sillanaukee, CEO and President of FIT Biotech, estimates that a preventative HIV vaccine or a vaccine that supports treatment will be finalized in five to ten years.
"The need for such a vaccine is urgent. Globally, more than 40 million people have acquired the HIV infection. A preventative vaccine would be the most reliable, safe and economical way to bring the HIV epidemic under control. This is why research groups and companies around the world work persistently to develop a vaccine."
According to Sillanaukee, the HIV product development at FIT Biotech has advanced according to plan and is on schedule.
"We conduct HIV product development in cooperation with our international researcher network. There are four development groups in the world that are more or less at the same stage as FIT Biotech in the development of a third-generation HIV vaccine."
One element of the development of third-generation vaccines is FIT Biotech´s GTU technology.
"The traditional first-generation vaccine is ineffective against the HI virus, which constantly changes its form in the human body," Sillanaukee explains.
"The main weakness of second-generation, virus-based DNA vaccines that are partly based on gene technology is that the body´s defence mechanisms can be activated against them. For this reason, a revaccination can´t be administered."
"Third-generation DNA vaccines are a safe and effective method for the immunization of humans. Their shortcomings lie in the technological challenge and the weak immune response they produce."
The advantage of the new GTU - Gene Transport Unit -technology is that a vaccine manufactured with it divides in the body together with a person´s own cells. The result is an enhanced effect over a longer period of time.
GTU technology can be utilized in the development of any vaccine. It can be applied in both preventative and treatment vaccines.
"GTU technology can introduce significant possibilities to the treatment of many illnesses, such as cancer, hepatitis C, allergy and genetic diseases," Sillanaukee
FIT Biotech´s Senior Vice President, Science & Technology, Kai Krohn began HIV research back in 1983. The GTU technology was developed in the 1990s by top international researchers from Finland, Sweden, Estonia and the United States. The work was coordinated by the company´s directors, professors Kai Krohn and Mart Ustav.
"Our researchers are pioneers in the field. This is why we have gained a rather comprehensive knowledge base regarding HIV immunity. The work for the development of an HIV vaccine began in 1987 under the direction of Kai Krohn. DNA-based vaccine research began in 1992, and industrial product development based on GTU technology began in 1998 in Tampere and Tartu," Sillanaukee says.
FITkit™ is the first finalized product based on FIT Biotech´s product development. With it, the accurate allergen concentration of an item made of natural rubber latex can be measured - a task that has previously been impossible. When the allergen concentration is known, it is possible to define the symptoms that the item will cause to persons allergic to rubber.
In western countries, approximately one per cent of the population suffers from rubber allergy. Rubber is used in the manufacture of a variety of products, from toys to surgical gloves.
FITkit™ was launched onto the international market in December 2001. The new measuring method has created interest among manufacturers and suppliers of rubber products, particularly in the United States and Asia.