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Richard M. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Chief, Vaccine Production Program Laboratory

Major Areas of Research

  • Process design and development
  • Regulatory strategy
  • Translational program management

The goal of the Vaccine Production Program Laboratory (VPPL) is to efficiently translate candidate research vaccines into materials for proof-of-concept clinical trials and to enable advanced development and licensure by partners. The VPPL is responsible for process design and development, clinical good manufacturing practices (cGMP) manufacturing, pre-clinical safety testing, and regulatory activities for all VRC products. Since its inception in 2001, the VPPL has overseen the manufacture of over 68 bulk pharmaceutical compounds formulated into 40 different vaccine and therapeutic products. These products include candidate vaccines for HIV, influenza, filoviruses including Ebola and Marburg, and alphaviruses including chikungunya, SARS, and West Nile.

Process design and development takes place at the laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The laboratory includes development groups for stable cell line generation, cell culture (upstream), purification (downstream), formulation, and analytical testing (characterization and lot release). The focus is on developing state-of-the-art production methodology that will support both the cGMP manufacturing of material for VRC clinical trials and the effective transfer of successful candidates to partner organizations for eventual commercialization. Flexibility is essential as candidate formats include DNA plasmids, viral vectors, recombinant antibodies and other proteins, virus-like particles, and self-assembling nanoparticles.

Once a process is developed, it is transferred to the Vaccine Pilot Plant (VPP), located in Frederick, Maryland, for cGMP production. The VPP, completed in 2005, has four independent production trains in a facility of 126,900 square feet. Two trains operate at 100 liter scale, one train at 400 liter scale, and one train at 2,000 liter scale. There are also suites for inoculum preparation and for media/buffer preparation. The filling operations are qualified to perform small-scale lots up to 5,000 vials and large-scale lots up to 15,000 vials. The warehouse is sized to handle raw materials and supplies sufficient to maintain production operations with coordination and control through the adjacent dispensary. Quality control laboratories and a quality assurance department are responsible for oversight of cGMP manufacture including validation, compliance, lot release, and document control. The VPP is operated under contract by Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. at the Frederick National Lab.

The Regulatory Science Group within the VPPL is responsible for setting regulatory strategy and for managing regulatory activities for all VRC products. The regulatory group has assembled more than twenty investigational new drugs (INDs) and master files since 2001. The group also leads the development and performance of good laboratory practices (GLP) safety studies for planned clinical products. The Translational Program Management Group of the VPPL is responsible for the cross-VRC coordination of VRC projects and programs. The VPPL establishes Collaborative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with industry partners to bring innovative vaccine technologies in for development or to continue development of VRC candidates beyond Phase I or II clinical development.

Dr. Schwartz joined the VRC as chief of the Vaccine Production Program Laboratory (VPPL) in May 2008. In this role he is responsible for the development of all VRC clinical trial candidates and clinical trial material production. Dr. Schwartz has almost 25 years’ experience in pharma and biotech while working in diverse areas including pharmaceutical natural product production, hematopoietic stem cells, and vaccines. He was previously the senior director of process and manufacturing sciences at MedImmune Vaccines, where he was responsible for vaccine development and clinical manufacturing of new vaccine candidates as well as for providing manufacturing support to commercial vaccine manufacturing operations. Additionally, he was team leader for a $170+ million dollar development effort to convert FluMist from egg-based to a cell culture-based production process. Prior to MedImmune, Dr. Schwartz worked at SyStemix, Aastrom Biosciences, and Eli Lilly. Dr. Schwartz received his B.S, M.S., and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan.

Schwartz RM. Formulation and stability of a chikungunya virus-like particle (ChikV VLP)-based vaccine. Paper presented at: Vaccine Technology IV; 2012 May 20-25; Albufeira, Portugal.

Schwartz RM. Delivering a future of broad cell culture implementation. Session chaired at: World Vaccine Cell Culture Congress; 2012 Apr 11-12; Washington, DC.

Schwartz RM. Development of a high-yield chikungunya VLP-based vaccine using a transient transfection process with HEK-293 cells. Paper presented at: New Cells – New Vaccines VI; 2012 Mar 25-28; Wilmington, DE.

Schwartz RM. Transient transfection for vaccine development. Paper featured at: Cell Line Development and Engineering; 2012 Feb 13-17; Cologne, Germany.

Schwartz RM. Case study: Rapid production of a novel VLP vaccine. Paper presented at: Rapid Vaccine Development and Production; 2010 Sep 20-24; Providence, RI.

Schwartz RM. Case study: Development and clinical manufacturing of a platform process for plasmid DNA vaccines. Paper presented at: Vaccines Development Forum; 2009 May 6-8; Boston, MA.

Content last reviewed on July 17, 2013