CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, today added an eighth COVID-19 vaccine candidate to its portfolio. CEPI will invest an initial US$4.9 million in a partnering agreement with the Institut Pasteur-led consortium that will include Themis and the University of Pittsburgh to develop a vaccine candidate against COVID-19. This collaboration brings CEPI’s total investment in COVID-19 vaccine R&D to US$29.2 million.
In a first step, CEPI funding will support the preclinical testing, initial manufacture of vaccine materials, and preparatory work for phase 1 studies.
Stewart Cole, President of the Institut Pasteur said: “The expertise of the Institut Pasteur (Paris) in emerging infectious diseases is one of the priorities of our Strategic Plan 2019-2023. As part of the COVID-19 Task Force set up in January 2020, after our isolation of the coronavirus strains detected in France, the proprietary measles vector (MV) technology was chosen to develop a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 leveraging our extensive experience with human measles vector technology and an MV-SARS-CoV-1 candidate. “We are delighted to continue our long-lasting collaboration with Themis and CEPI that has already delivered high potential vaccine candidates for Chikungunya, nearing phase 3, and Lassa fever in phase 1, both emerging infectious diseases representing a threat to global health.”
Erich Tauber, CEO of Themis said: “Our versatile, plug-and-play manufacturing technology affords us the advantage of accelerating the discovery and development of a vaccine candidate against the highly infectious and potentially pandemic coronavirus. We have demonstrated an excellent immunogenicity, safety and manufacturability profile of the technology in late stage clinical development already and are confident to apply this experience to our COVID-19 vaccine development. We are excited to work with our colleagues from Institut Pasteur and the University of Pittsburgh to contribute to fighting this global health situation as soon as possible.”
Paul Duprex, Director of the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh said: “The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) supported Regional Biocontainment Laboratories (RBL) housed at the Center for Vaccine Research is a state-of-the-art facility for research on Biosafety Level -3 (BSL-3) biodefense and emerging infectious diseases. It is our mandated role to respond rapidly to global outbreaks such as COVID-19; to develop animal models of disease; to use these to test the efficacy of candidate vaccines such as recombinant measles viruses expressing a range of SARS-CoV-2 genes. All of our efforts will be directed to address this rapidly changing public health emergency. We are delighted to be part of this multinational, world-class consortium.”
Measles vector platform
The measles vaccine is used here as a vehicle. Using the measles vaccine virus (also called MV) as a vector, recombinant vaccines can be designed to express antigens from other pathogens (Chikungunya virus, Lassa fever, MERS, HIV, dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, or other emerging diseases). The use of the modified MV as a vehicle for vaccination against these pathogens makes it possible to deliver the antigens directly in the compartments of the immune system capable of inducing a protective memory response. With its broadly applicable technology platform licensed to Themis, the Institut Pasteur has successfully collaborated for 10 years with Themis. This approach was used to develop a vaccine candidate against SARS, and CEPI has previously partnered with Themis and Institut Pasteur to harness this technology to develop vaccine candidates against Chikungunya, MERS, and Lassa fever.