Indian scientists on Monday announced launching an ambitious project to develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine that would give protection not only against known infections like MERS, SARS and Covid-19 but also from any other coronavirus infections that may emerge in the future.
With funding support of $12.5 million (over Rs 93 crore) from a global agency, scientists from Translational Health, Science and Technology Institution, Faridabad and Panacea Biotech will work together to come out with such a vaccine.
The aim would be to develop a broadly protective beta-coronavirus vaccine effective against multiple types of coronaviruses including MERS, SARS and Covid-19, Syed Khalid Ali, project leader at Panacea Biotech said at a press conference.
"We have a vaccine candidate and preliminary data from laboratory studies. The candidate is immunogenic. The final vaccine will be an injectable one. We plan to conduct the phase-I/II trial in the next 15-18 months,” Ali told DH.
The funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will support the development of nanoparticle-based vaccine candidates and advance the manufacturing process. While THSTI has developed the antigen, Panacea would work on the process development and scaling up the production.
The CEPI grant is one of the largest funding support in India for an early stage Covid-19 vaccine development effort. In comparison, the Department of Biotechnology pledged Rs 900 crore for Covid-19 vaccine development, but disbursed just about Rs 115 crore till January, of which the biggest chunk of Rs 40 crore grant went to Cadila.
“Over the past two years, coronaviruses have demonstrated their pandemic potential with devastating effect. SARS-CoV-2 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 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,” said Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI.
There are nine known coronaviruses that infect humans and two new coronaviruses have been discovered since the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Indian funding is a part of CEPI's, $200 million programme, launched in March 2021, to advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-Cov-2 variants and other beta-coronaviruses.
THSTI and Panacea Biotec are using a novel technology platform with highly immunogenic antigens. Data from preclinical studies indicate that the vaccine platform induces all types of immune responses seen in the body.
If the platform is proven 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.
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