OSLO, Norway & CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Affinivax, Inc. (Affinivax) today announced a partnership to advance the development of a novel vaccine that could provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants, and potentially other betacoronaviruses.
CEPI will provide funding of up to $4.5 million to support the initial development of a vaccine candidate based on Affinivax’s innovative Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPSTM) technology platform. CEPI’s investment in Affinivax will fund vaccine candidate design and selection, manufacturing process development and preclinical testing against specific SARS-CoV-2 variants. The collaborative program aims to establish preclinical proof of concept for a novel vaccine candidate designed to protect against new COVID-19 variants and that is also suitable for use in low- and middle-income countries. CEPI will evaluate the potential for further investment in the development of this vaccine candidate based on the data derived from this initial partnership with Affinivax.
The MAPSTM technology platform may potentially be applicable for developing vaccines which are protective against a broad range of betacoronaviruses1, as well as other pathogens in the CEPI portfolio, including ‘Disease X’ which represents unknown pathogens with pandemic potential. The MAPSTM technology platform has been clinically validated with Affinivax’s lead 24-valent pneumococcal vaccine candidate, which was observed to be safe and well tolerated and generated an antibody response to each of the 24 pneumococcal polysaccharides and to the two conserved pneumococcal proteins in a Phase 2 clinical trial.
CEPI is committed to the principle of equitable access to the vaccines it funds. Under the terms of the funding agreement, Affinivax has committed to achieving equitable access to the outputs of this project, in line with CEPI’s Equitable Access Policy.
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said:
“The emergence of the Omicron variant is a stark reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and that we must prepare to live alongside the virus for the long term. Through our partnership with Affinivax, we are taking the first steps towards developing a vaccine capable of tackling a broad range of variants, to help us stay one step ahead of the virus in the future. Developing variant-proof COVID-19 vaccines and enabling equitable access to them is vital for global health security.”
Steven Brugger, CEO of Affinivax, said:
“We are honored to receive this prestigious grant and to enter into CEPI’s visionary program for accelerating the development of critical vaccines that are accessible to patients worldwide. As is CEPI, we are convinced that new vaccine options, in addition to those currently approved or authorized, are needed to help the world control this challenging virus. Our MAPS technology platform represents a fundamentally different approach to vaccine development that allows us to combine multiple antigens into a single MAPS vaccine to potentially address the continued threat of emerging COVID-19 variants. Additionally, this grant will allow Affinivax the opportunity to explore the potential of our vaccine platform against other viruses and continue to support global health organizations in their efforts to target other viral pathogens and diversify their vaccination programs.”
Strengthening our defenses against COVID-19
While the world has made great advances in vaccine development against COVID-19, the emergence of Omicron is a reminder that variants of concern will continue to pose a threat to this progress as long as the virus continues to circulate. Vaccines have dramatically altered the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in countries that have access to them, but emerging variants that are more transmissible, more deadly, and/or can evade the protection provided by current vaccines could create significant challenges. Developing novel vaccines that target variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and have the potential to generate immunity against all of them is therefore essential for the long-term control of the virus.
As illustrated by COVID-19, coronaviruses have a devastating pandemic potential. The emergence of a coronavirus combining the transmissibility of COVID-19 with the lethality of SARS or MERS would be catastrophic; thus, developing vaccines that provide broad protection against the whole betacoronavirus genus is vital to global health security. CEPI is working closely with partners to advance work in this area as quickly as possible.
The grant announced today is the third to have been issued in response to a CEPI Call for Proposals issued in March 2021, and additional awards are expected to be announced shortly. The programme forms part of CEPI’s next 5-year plan, published in March, which aims to reduce or even eliminate the future risk of pandemics and epidemics.
CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines against future epidemics. Prior to COVID-19, CEPI’s work focused on developing vaccines against the Ebola Virus Disease, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever virus and Chikungunya virus. It has over 20 vaccine candidates against these pathogens in development. CEPI has also invested in new platform technologies for rapid vaccine development against unknown pathogens (Disease X).
During the current pandemic, CEPI initiated multiple programmes to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants with a focus on speed, scale and access. These programmes leverage the rapid response platforms developed by CEPI’s partners prior to the emergence of COVID-19, as well as new collaborations. The aim is to advance clinical development of a diverse portfolio of safe and effective COVID-19 candidates and to enable fair allocation of these vaccines worldwide through COVAX.
CEPI’s 5-year plan lays out a $3.5 billion roadmap to compress vaccine development timelines to 100 days, develop a broadly protective vaccine against COVID-19 and other Betacoronaviruses, and create a “library” of vaccine candidates for use against known and unknown pathogens. The plan is available at https://endpandemics.cepi.net/.
Affinivax is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company pioneering the development of a novel class of vaccines designed to induce broad and robust protective immune responses to both disease-relevant polysaccharides and proteins in a single vaccine. Affinivax designs each of its vaccine candidates to optimize the protective immune response to one or both of these types of antigens utilizing the distinctive plug-and-play nature of its proprietary MAPS™ platform technology. Vaccines using the MAPSTM technology platform offer the possibility to address major healthcare challenges posed by antimicrobial-resistant or novel pathogens. Affinivax was founded in 2014 with a seed investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and an exclusive license to the MAPS technology from Boston Children’s Hospital. For more information, visit www.affinivax.com.
1 Betacoronaviruses are types of coronavirus that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which have been responsible for major epidemics in Asia and the Middle East in recent years, and also SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.