The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Sichuan Clover Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. expanded their partnership last week to guarantee the rapid development and manufacturing of the company’s protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Known as S-Trimer, the vaccine is based on Clover’s proprietary Trimer-Tag vaccine technology platform. With an upfront investment of $66 million, the pair intend to immediately begin preclinical studies and utilize the rest of the funds to support phase 1 clinical trials, global site preparations for an efficacy trial, and a scale-up of the Chinese company’s manufacturing capacity.
“The expansion of our partnership with Clover is an important step forward in our efforts to develop a safe, effective, and globally accessibly vaccine against COVID-19,” Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said. “Clover’s S-Trimer is a promising vaccine candidate with the potential to be scaled up to produce hundreds of millions or even one billion doses per year, so it could play a significant role in controlling this pandemic. CEPI’s investment will fund clinical development and initial manufacturing scale up activities in parallel, with the aim of greatly compressing timelines so that if the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective, it can be given to those who most need it as soon as possible.”
Efforts will be run in parallel with one another, meaning that while CEPI and Clover evaluate the vaccine, they will simultaneously enhance manufacturing capacity to be able to potentially produce hundreds of millions of doses per year. Clinical trial results and initial manufacturing efforts will go on to inform planning for efficacy trials and full manufacturing possibilities.
“We are honoured to receive CEPI’s continued recognition and support, which follows several months of close collaboration,” said Joshua Liang, Chief Strategy Officer of Clover Biopharmaceuticals and co-inventor of the COVID-19 S-Trimer vaccine. “With CEPI’s additional investment and funding commitment, Clover intends to further accelerate the development of S-Trimer, including preparing for a global efficacy trial. More than ever, Clover remains focused on developing a safe, effective, and accessible COVID-19 vaccine at a scale that could contribute to the control of the pandemic globally.”
CEPI has left the door open to further investment if early-stage clinical development proves successful. This would fully fund the S-Trimer vaccine candidate through licensure both in China and abroad. Vaccine output funded by CEPI will, however, be distributed through the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility per the stipulations of the agreement, meaning that initial runs of the vaccine will be earmarked for equitable use among all countries at all levels of development.
The new arrangement builds off a partnership that has been ongoing since April.