The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and biopharmaceutical company CureVac AG announced that, as of last week, they are linked in the effort to accelerate development of vaccines against the novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019).
While the pair had already been partnering to create a rapid-response vaccine platform, this extends that cooperation to new grounds and introduces new funding from CEPI. Under the arrangement, CEPI will provide up to $8.3 million in initial funding for accelerated vaccine development, manufacturing, and clinical tests.
“In view of the rapid spread of the coronavirus, CEPI has moved quickly to expand our collaboration with CureVac, so that we can apply their mRNA vaccine development platform to this disease,” CEPI CEO Richard Hatchett said. “Our aspiration is to bring the pathogen’s gene sequence to a vaccine candidate for clinical testing within a few months – which is significantly shorter than where we are now. This is an extremely ambitious timeline and even if we are successful—and there can be no guarantee—there will be further challenges to navigate before we can make vaccines widely available.”
Born of the same family of viruses as MERS and SARS, the novel coronavirus has rapidly spread across the world since an outbreak began in Wuhan, China in December 2019. As of this week, more than 14,000 cases have been confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and 305 deaths — including the first outside of China. In all, 24 countries are now affected.
CureVac’s platform will work to counter nCoV-2019 through the properties of mRNA therapeutics and vaccines. It can be adjusted to create different degrees of immune responses against chosen antigens, with the potential for creating vaccines. This could allow them to rapidly generate and advance treatment for clinical testing.
“CureVac’s technology and mRNA platform are especially suitable to rapidly provide a response to a viral outbreak situation like this,” Dr. Mariola Fotin-Mleczek, Chief Technology Officer at CureVac, said. “Thanks to the funding by CEPI, we will be able to support the fight against this health emergency in an expedited manner. Currently, we are in the process of developing a vaccine that, after successful preclinical tests, could be tested rapidly in humans in a clinical study.”
CEPI is also working with CureVac to create The RNA Printer, a mobile, automated production unit for rapid mRNA vaccine candidate supply. Under that arrangement, CEPI will pay CureVac up to $34 million.