OSLO, Norway, CAMBRIDGE, UK; 8 March 2022: At today’s Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) announced the latest award under its $200m programme to advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-Cov-2 variants and other Betacoronaviruses. CEPI will partner with UK-based DIOSynVax – a Biotech spinout of the University of Cambridge that specialises in the development of broadly protective, multi-virus vaccine antigen payloads (VAPs) – to develop a vaccine candidate based upon intelligent computational design that could provide protection against both existing and future variants of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus which causes COVID-19 disease – as well as other major sub-genera of Betacoronaviruses including those which cause SARS and MERS.
CEPI will invest up to $42m to support the development of a broadly protective Betacoronavirus vaccine using mRNA platform technology. CEPI’s funding will support DIOSynVax to design and select the lead antigen through proof-of-concept preclinical studies, and undertake initial clinical development through Phase I/II studies as they seek to establish clinical proof of concept for a novel vaccine candidate with the potential to provide broad protection against Sarbecovirus, Merbecovirus, Embecovirus and Nobecovirus.
DIOSynVax utilises the combination of protein structure, computational biology and immune-optimisation to maximise the protection that vaccines can provide against global threats including existing and future virus outbreaks. This is achieved by combining the best Vaccine Antigen Payload (VAP) candidates that can be deployed in a variety of vaccine delivery and manufacturing platforms. The DIOSynVax pipeline includes vaccine candidates for haemorrhagic fever viruses, Influenza, and Sarbeco-Coronaviruses, the latter of which is currently in clinical trials.
If DIOSynVax’s novel antigen design is successfully deployed using the intended mRNA platform, it could potentially be used to enable rapid development of vaccines against Disease X – unknown pathogens with pandemic potential that have yet to emerge.
Enabling equitable access
CEPI and DIOSynVax are committed to enabling global equitable access to the vaccines developed through this partnership. Under the terms of the funding agreement, DIOSynVax 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 UK Government and the country’s world-leading scientific institutions have been pivotal to the global response to COVID-19. From the development of the CEPI-supported Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – which is used in more countries than any other – to the ground-breaking Recovery trial to evaluate life-saving treatments like dexamethasone, British science has played a leading role in protecting the world from COVID-19.
“I am excited to further strengthen CEPI’s strong ties to British science through this partnership with DIOSynVax to develop a vaccine with the potential to protect against variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other Betacoronaviruses in the future. Coronaviruses have now proven their pandemic potential, so it’s imperative for global health security that we invest in R&D now to future-proof the world against the threat of coronaviruses.”
Professor Jonathan Heeney, CEO of DIOSynVax, said:
“We are excited to be working with CEPI on its ground-breaking mission to leverage revolutionary science and technology to outmanoeuvre and minimise future pandemic threats. Our approach is to be ahead of the next pandemic – to deliver custom designed, immune selected vaccine antigens – which is ideal to prevent diseases caused by complex viruses such as the large and diverse family of coronaviruses. If successful, it will result in a safe, affordable NextGen vaccine for widespread use.”
Tackling future epidemics and pandemics
CEPI’s programme to develop broadly protective coronavirus vaccines is a core part of its $3.5 billion pandemic preparedness plan, in view of the continued threat posed by new SARS-CoV-2 variants and the proven potential for the coronavirus family of viruses to cause pandemics. Including the collaboration with DIOSynVax, CEPI has now announced a total investment of up to $135 million in seven partnerships under this programme.
CEPI and the UK Government are hosting the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit on 7-8 March 2022 which brings together a unique mix of leaders across governments, international agencies, science and academia, industry, philanthropy, and civil society to explore how to collectively prepare for future viral threats and mobilize critical resources and political support for CEPI’s work. The Summit is being live streamed on https://100days.cepi.net/
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 Ebola virus, 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 to 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 universal 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 http://www.endpandemics.cepi.net.
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DIOSynVax provides a significant unmet need in the vaccine industry. Despite the accelerated vaccine manufacturing timelines to meet the global needs of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of vaccine failure due to circulating variants of concern illustrates a major weakness in global vaccine technology. The crux of the problem with current vaccine technology is with vaccine antigens, the key information that vaccines use to target the immune response. The “vaccine payloads” used in current COVID-19 vaccines provide protection that is quite narrow. To provide broader protection, a new approach to antigen creation is needed.
In 2017 DIOSynVax (Digital Immune Optimised Synthetic Vaccines) was established as a spin-out of the University of Cambridge. Its technology brings together different areas of cutting edge science into a pipeline of candidates. The result are new Vaccine Antigen Payloads (VAPs) with superior protection from highly variable pathogens, or viral variants across viral families. These computationally generated, synthetic genes represent vaccine antigens that are designed and immunologically selected to give the greatest possible breadth of protection from a variety of pathogens.
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