VBI Vaccines, National Research Council of Canada Collaborate to Develop Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine

The collaboration will combine VBI’s viral vaccine experience and coronavirus antigens with the NRC’s unique COVID-19 antigens and assay development capabilities.

As researchers race to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), VBI Vaccines and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada have announced a partnership to develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine targeting COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

In a statement, Francisco Diaz-Mitoma, MD, PhD, chief medical officer of VBI, said there remains an unmet need for vaccines targeting SARS and MERS.

“COVID-19 is now the third, and to-date the most widespread, coronavirus outbreak in the 21st century, and while it is clearly a priority at this time, there remains an unmet medical need for broader protection against emerging coronaviruses,” Diaz-Mitoma said in a press release.

Diaz-Mitoma explained that because coronaviruses are enveloped, meaning they have an outer wrapping from the infected cell, researchers at VBI believe they are a prime candidate for the company’s flexible enveloped virus-like particle (eVLP) platform technology.

“Based on past clinical experience with the eVLP platform, we expect that a multivalent eVLP vaccine candidate, co-expressing SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV spike proteins on the same particle, will be possible to develop,” Diaz-Mitoma said.

He added that the trivalent construction could make the production of broadly reactive antibodies possible, which could offer protection from mutated strains of COVID-19 that could appear over time.

The collaboration will combine VBI’s viral vaccine experience and coronavirus antigens with the NRC’s unique COVID-19 antigens and assay development capabilities. According to a press release, the companies hope to identify the most immunogenic vaccine candidate for further development.

Following investigational new drug-enabling pre-clinical studies, which will be conducted at both the NRC core facilities and at VBI’s research facility in Ottawa, clinical study materials could be available in the fourth quarter of 2020 according to a statement.

“We are working hard to be part of the solution in this time of increasing uncertainty by providing key Canadian expertise and facilities to help address the real and potential global impacts of COVID-19,” said Roman Szumski, vice president of life sciences at the NRC, in a statement.

REFERENCE

VBI Vaccines Announces Collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada to Develop Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Targeting COVID-19, SARS, and MERS [news release]. VBI Vaccines; March 31, 2020. https://www.vbivaccines.com/wire/nrc-pan-coronavirus-vaccine-collaboration/. Accessed April 1, 2020.