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Shionogi and NEC collaborate on hepatitis B vaccine

High unmet need in the area of hepatitis B therapies will see companies share responsibilities to develop the vaccine

Shionogi and NEC Corporation have announced the execution of a strategic research collaboration agreement for the development of a novel hepatitis B therapeutic vaccine. The two companies will divide responsibilities according to areas of expertise such as artificial intelligence and knowledge of infectious diseases.

The interferon (IFN) and nucleotide analogue therapies are currently the main treatments for hepatitis B. Treatment with IFN, however, has a high frequency of side effects, while the nucleotide analogue therapy has a high recurrence rate if treatment is interrupted, so it becomes necessary to take drugs for a lifetime.

Consequently, there is a high unmet medical need for safe and highly effective drugs to achieve a complete cure for hepatitis B and, in the process, transform millions of lives around the world.

Isao Teshirogi, President and CEO, of Shionogi, explained: “Shionogi has been engaged in the research and development of infectious diseases for over 60 years. As a leading infectious disease company, we are taking on the challenge of protecting people from the threat of infectious diseases and realising total care.”

He also stressed the increasing importance of collaboration in targeting debilitating conditions: “One company can only go so far in dealing with a global pandemic like COVID-19. We will further enhance our contribution to global health by integrating NEC’s AI technologies while leveraging our strengths.”

Nobuhiro Endo, Chairman of the Board at NEC Corporation, was optimistic about the partnership: “NEC is committed to our vision of ‘Orchestrating a brighter world,’ and we are delighted to collaborate with Shionogi to realise this vision through the development of novel treatments for patients. The innovative AI technologies of the NEC Group have the potential to overcome several challenges in what is usually a long and labour-intensive drug discovery process.”

“Through this new partnership with Shionogi, a recognised leader in the field of infectious disease, we aim to maximise the contribution of our AI to accelerate the pace of drug discovery, and thereby to contribute to society,” he concluded.