RNA vaccine developer CureVac will receive a grant of up to €8.3M from a global partnership to develop an mRNA vaccine against the new coronavirus strain from China.
The agreement follows on from an existing collaboration launched in 2019, when the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, granted CureVac €30M to develop facilities that can ‘print’ mRNA vaccines. The aim of the new grant is to help CureVac’s preclinical-stage mRNA vaccine for the coronavirus strain to reach clinical trials as quickly as possible.
“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,” stated Richard Hatchett, the CEO of CEPI. “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.”
Coronaviruses are a big family of viruses responsible for the common cold and more serious respiratory conditions such as SARS, which broke out in 2002. The recent coronavirus outbreak — with a new strain named nCoV-2019 — has been detected in several countries around the world since beginning in China in late 2019. While the symptoms are mostly mild — around 2% of people infected with the virus have died — there is an international push to learn about where the virus strain came from, and how to control its spread.
CureVac is developing mRNA vaccines for conditions such as rabies and yellow fever that are easier to make than traditional vaccines and could take less time to bring to the market. Its mRNA-printing facilities are designed to be transportable, which could make it easier to deliver the coronavirus vaccine to areas worst affected by outbreaks.
“CureVac’s technology and mRNA platform are especially suitable to rapidly provide a response to a viral outbreak situation like this,” stated Mariola Fotin-Mleczek, CTO of CureVac.
Companies and labs around the world are racing to get a vaccine for the virus into human testing. These include the US mRNA giant Moderna and Inovio Pharmaceuticals. However, it’s unclear who’s the most advanced at present.
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