Using almost $30 million in funding, an all-in-one vaccine is being developed to bring new protection against a range of new and existing coronavirus variants
SARS-CoV-2 continue to emerge in new variants across the world, and over time, new virus variants arise and threaten to reduce the impact of existing vaccine efforts. To counter this, researchers thought of an all-in-one vaccine to cover all future threats posed by COVID-19.
There is a clear need for strategies to both tackle emerging variants, and protect populations against potential future threats to human health such as bat-related viruses.
Tackled researchers who aim to establish the first-in-human clinical proof of concept for a new vaccine design, the all-in-one vaccine will target both SARS-CoV-2 and several bat-related viruses which have the potential to spread to humans.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and Caltech, working with deep tech innovation organisation CPI, and industrial biotechnology company Ingenza Ltd (Caltech-CPI-Oxford-Ingenza), have announced up to US $30 million to fund pre-clinical studies, GMP manufacturing and Phase 1 trial based on this technology.
Protection against future novel SARS-CoV-2 variants
Unlike most of the existing vaccines which use mRNA or a viral vector to present sections of the spike protein of a single type of virus to the immune system – this new vaccine will use protein nanoparticles containing a protein ‘glue’ which attaches related antigenic sections of the spike proteins from eight different viruses.
The researchers incorporated a ‘mosaic-8 vaccine’ design created at Caltech, where these nanoparticles would favour immune responses to the shared parts of each of the different types of coronaviruses within a single vaccine.
This demonstrated that this all-in-one vaccine technology not only obtains protective immune responses against SARS-like viruses but also against some coronaviruses not presented in the trial vaccine.
The power of technology in pandemic response
The technology used has shown proof of providing protection against future SARS-CoV-2 variants, and undiscovered coronaviruses with the potential to arise from animal populations.
Alain Townsend, Oxford Lead of the consortium, Professor of Molecular Immunology at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, said: “The evolution of this consortium is an example of collaborative science at its best.
“We had been deeply impressed by the power of the “glue” for sticking proteins together developed by Mark Howarth (Biochemistry Oxford), and derived from his beautiful basic science investigations of the Streptococcus pyogenes bacterium.
“Together we used this technology to make a prototype nanoparticle SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that induced highly potent responses in preclinical studies.
“Through connections made by Ian Wilkinson (Absolute Antibody), we joined with colleagues at Ingenza and CPI who succeeded in making a fully functional version of the vaccine produced in microbes, thus reducing the cost of production.”
Producing efficacious, low-cost, infrastructure-independent vaccines that will be accessible to low- and middle-income countries
Dr Jack Tan, Project Manager (Oxford) of the consortium, Senior Postdoctoral Scientist at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, said: “We are delighted to be working with CEPI to further this nanoparticle technology with the goal of producing efficacious, low-cost, infrastructure-independent vaccine that will be accessible to low- and middle-income countries.’
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, added: “There have already been three serious coronavirus epidemics or pandemics in the 21st century – and COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on the world’s health, society, and economy.
“The creation of vaccines that could provide broad protection against emerging COVID-19 variants and future coronavirus threats would not only help mitigate the damaging effects of another COVID-19-like pandemic, it could also help reduce the time taken and funding spent continually updating vaccine formulations
“That’s why we are delighted to today partner with this CPI-led research consortium to build on Wellcome Leap’s initial investment further advance this pioneering mosaic nanoparticle vaccine technology that, if successful, could work towards consigning the threat posed by coronaviruses to the history books.”
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