The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has pledged $19.3 million to an international multidisciplinary consortium comprising Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL), India, the University of Sydney, Australia and ExcellGene SA, Switzerland to support the development of a "variant-proof" SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate.
CEPI, launched at Davos in 2017, is a partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, to develop vaccines against future epidemics. The coalition said the amount will be part of its $200m programme to advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-Cov-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses.
CEPI's funding will support the consortium as it seeks to establish preclinical and clinical proof of concept for an adjuvanted subunit vaccine designed to provide broad protection against all known SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, as well as future variants of the virus which have not yet emerged. CEPI will fund the researchers to conduct activities including immunogen design, preclinical studies, manufacturing process development and a Phase 1 clinical trial.
"BBIL has successfully commercialized a universal COVID-19 vaccine for adults and children. While current generation of vaccines are safe and effective, against currently known variants, it is imperative that we focus on innovation for multi-epitope vaccines, where a single vaccine can protect against all future variants. Our expertise in product development and innovation, especially with novel adjuvants and platform technologies will add to the strong partnership with CEPI, ExcellGene, and the University of Sydney," Krishna Ella, chairman & managing director at BBIL, says.
In this new vaccine design, modified trimeric spike immunogens will be produced in a robust and scalable process with high purity and yield at low cost, based on a biomanufacturing approach that has provided significant quantities of protein therapeutics to the world. This strategy could also be used to enable rapid development of broadly protective vaccines against other betacoronaviruses, as well as vaccines against Disease X—unknown pathogens with pandemic potential that emerge in the future.
Under the terms of the funding agreement, the consortium partners have committed to achieving equitable access to the outputs of this project, in line with CEPI's Equitable Access Policy.
"As repeated waves of COVID-19 infection remind us, we will be living alongside the virus for many years to come. The threat of a new variant emerging that might evade the protection of our current vaccines is real, so investing in R&D for variant-proof SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is a global health security imperative. Our partnership with Bharat Biotech, University of Sydney and ExcellGene will advance the development of a vaccine candidate to protect against future variants of COVID-19, potentially contributing to the long-term control of the virus," Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, says.
Including today's announcement, CEPI has to date announced funding for the following nine programmes to advance the development of vaccines that could provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses:
• MigVax Ltd - funding of $4.3m to MigVax Ltd to support the initial development of a new orally administered subunit vaccine tablet that could offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.
• University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) - funding of $5m to support the initial development of a new vaccine based on VIDO's novel protein subunit technology that could offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.
• Affinivax – funding of up to $4.5m to support the initial development of a vaccine candidate based on Affinivax's MAPS platform that could offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.
• SK bioscience – funding of up to $50m to support the development of a vaccine candidate based on SK's nanoparticle vaccine platform to elicit immune responses that could protect against variants of both SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and other sarbecoviruses.
• Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) and Panacea Biotec – funding of up to $12.5m to support the development of multi-epitope, nanoparticle-based vaccine candidates that could provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants and other Betacoronaviruses.
• BioNet – funding of up to $16.9m to advance the development of a novel mRNA-based vaccine that could offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.
• DIOSynVax – funding of up to $42m to support the development of a broadly protective Betacoronavirus vaccine using mRNA platform technology.
• NEC Corporation – funding of up to $4.8m to support the initial development of an AI-designed vaccine based on mRNA technology that protects against a broad range of betacoronaviruses.
• Bharat Biotech/ University of Sydney/ ExcellGene – funding of up to $19.3m to support the development of an adjuvanted subunit vaccine designed to provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.