New partnership amid future pandemic warning

A global coalition has announced the next phase in its $3 billion plus plan to prepare for the threat from a future pandemic.

CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, has revealed it is to partner with a consortium comprised of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), an autonomous institute of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India and Panacea Biotec, a research-based biopharmaceutical company and vaccine manufacturer, to develop vaccine candidates that could provide broad protection against SARS-Cov-2 variants and other Betacoronaviruses.

CEPI will provide funding of up to $12.5m to support the development of multi-epitope, nanoparticle-based vaccine candidates and advance the manufacturing process. Through this research programme, THSTI and Panacea Biotec will 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 novel vaccine candidates to provide broad protection against MERS, SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.

Consortium partners THSTI and Panacea Biotec are using a novel technology platform with highly immunogenic antigens. Data from preclinical studies indicate that the vaccine platform induces both humoral and cellular mediated immune responses.

CEPI said if the platform proves to be successful, it could potentially be used to enable rapid development of vaccines against Disease X – unknown pathogens with pandemic potential that have yet to emerge.

“CEPI, THSTI and Panacea Biotec are committed to enabling global equitable access to the vaccines developed through this partnership,” the coalition said. “Under the terms of the funding agreement, THSTI and Panacea Biotec have committed to achieving equitable access to the outputs of this project, in line with CEPI’s Equitable Access Policy.”

“Over the past two years, coronaviruses have demonstrated their pandemic potential with devastating effect,” said CEPI CEO Dr. Richard Hatchett. “SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will not be the last coronavirus to infect humans, and there’s nothing to stop the next one being even more deadly or contagious. It’s therefore vital for global health security that we invest now in research to develop vaccines that are broadly protective against variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses before they emerge.

“Indian scientists and industry have played a central role in the global fight against COVID-19, so I am proud to work with our Indian partners THSTI, a leading research institution, and Panacea Biotec, a vaccine manufacturer with a proven track record of delivering WHO prequalified vaccines, to advance our mission to develop globally accessible vaccines with the potential to prevent the next pandemic.”

CEPI added it is accelerating its programme to develop broadly protective coronavirus vaccines, a core part of its $3.5 billion pandemic preparedness plan, in view of the continued threat posed by new SARS-CoV-2 variants like Omicron.   This partnership is the sixth to be announced under this programme, and more are expected to be announced shortly.

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