Synthetic biotechnology pioneers Amyris have provided some good news for sharks with an announcement that it is currently delivering samples to pharmaceutical companies of a sustainable and scalable alternative to shark-based vaccine adjuvants currently used in a number of vaccines, including those directed at influenza and COVID-19. Amyris expects commercialization and production of its alternative squalene for adjuvants in the fourth quarter. This is a timely announcement with action group Shark Allies warning half a million sharks could be ‘killed for a vaccine’ to COVID-19 with around 3,000 sharks are needed to extract one tonne of squalene.
In what might be a surprise to many consumers squalene is a natural oil made in the liver of sharks and used as an ingredient within adjuvants in vaccines to improve efficacy of a vaccine. Shark-based squalene is used in influenza vaccines and in various COVID-19 vaccines and now Amyris ( @Amyris ) has developed a process to naturally produce sugarcane-derived squalene as an effective alternative to shark-derived squalene.
Adjuvants are added to vaccines to boost immune system response and those including squalene are typically sourced from deep-sea shark livers, a non-sustainable and non-scalable resource.
“Our patented technology and manufacturing processes have already produced a number rof applications to, among other things, create a scalable treatment for malaria, and a variety of sustainably-sourced clean products and ingredients that are better for people and our planet,” said John Melo, President and CEO.
“We believe our capabilities are critical toward supporting a healthier planet while protecting its resources, including the lives of sharks essential to the marine ecosystem. We are committed to delivering the world’s needs for a high performance, low cost sustainable squalene without killing a single shark. We believe this is essential in responding to pandemics and delivering vaccines for all people in need on our planet” continued Melo.
Read: The Amyris story: veterans of a new industry (story from 2015).