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CEPI to expand COVID-19 vaccine testing network to assess countermeasures to other epidemic threats

Building on the success of its COVID-10 vaccine testing network to date, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) announced this week that it will expand its centralized testing capabilities to the development of vaccines for other epidemic and pandemic diseases.

CEPI’s network is already the world’s largest for assessing COVID-19 vaccines, thanks to a world-spanning collection of labs using the same methods and materials. More than 30 COVID-19 vaccine developers have been used to access more than 15,000 clinical trial samples. The network will now take on other CEPI priority diseases, including Chikungunya, Lassa fever, MERS Nipah, Rift Valley fever, and Disease X.

“We’ve already seen multiple deadly disease outbreaks affecting populations over the twenty-first century – and we know that the next pandemic is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” Melanie Saville, director of Vaccine Research and Development for CEPI, said. “So, while we continue to tackle COVID-19, we must also make sure that vaccine developers working on other emerging infectious diseases with epidemic or pandemic potential have the same level of scientific research and resources available to them to best prepare for future outbreaks. This means building on what we’ve learned and created during this current crisis and extending our centralised labs network to also test against other known threats – and a potential future ‘Disease X.’”

Saville and CEPI espoused hopes that the network’s resources would allow labs a standardized assessment of multiple vaccines already under evaluation, which could lead to the development of other vaccine candidates down the line. CEPI established and funded the network to more quickly and accurately identify the most promising candidates with the best potential for late-stage clinical trial advancement and regulatory review.

A key goal for CEPI, and this network, is to reduce the overall vaccine development timeline to just 100 days. It also hopes to aid labs in South America, Africa, and Oceania, as none of these regions are represented within its network currently.

The centralized lab network is open to both CEPI-funded and non-CEPI-funded labs for largely free use and has been since October 2020. This has allowed it to help developers analyze samples all the up through Phase III clinical studies.

Chris Galford

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