IDT Biologika will conduct the development of a vaccine against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) will provide an initial $15.7m for the first stages of development with the option to invest up to $36m over five years.
Jodie Rogers, communications officer at the CEPI, told us that the signing of the partnership agreement with IDT Biologika took place August 20 at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
The vaccine development will be performed by the existing MERS-CoV consortium within the contract research organization (CRO) IDT Biologika. The vaccine candidate under development by the consortium was advanced to Phase I clinical trials by the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF).
According to Rogers, CEPI is a non-for-profit organization made up of public, private, philanthropic and civil organizations. The Government of Germany is a founding member through the BMBF, which has provided multi-year funding.
Partnering with IDT Biologika was a choice made after heavy consideration, “This consortium went through a rigorous process of selection. This process involved issuing a ‘call for proposals’ and an objective review of those proposals by our Scientific Advisory Committee to identify the most promising candidates,” said Rogers.
Rogers further explained, “So far, we have awarded funding to three companies—Themis, Inovio, and IDT Biologika—to develop vaccine candidates against MERS-CoV. We will also be announcing funding for additional MERS vaccine development soon.”
Rogers told us that the current focus of the coalition is to develop vaccines against Lassa, MERS, and Nipah as informed by the World Health Organization’s Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics. CEPI has a goal of developing a portfolio of 20 products against priority pathogens by the end of 2018.
The first generation of the MVA-MERS vaccine candidate is produced in primary chicken embryo fibroblasts and is in an ongoing clinical trial. Additionally, some of the vaccines that are supported by the CEPI are in ongoing early stage clinical trials.
WHO has designated MERS-CoV as a priority
Due to its epidemic potential MERS-CoV is classified as a priority for research and development.
MERS-CoV is a zoonotic disease spread to humans by dromedary camels. After being first identified in 2012, 2,229 lab cases have been confirmed across 27 countries. The virus is spread by droplet infection of the airways and can progress into severe pneumonia. Thirty-five percent of patients who have contracted MERS-CoV have died.
Outbreaks of the disease have occurred, most of which in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. However, the disease has spread outside of the Middle East to South Korea where the virus was spread to 186 people. Thirty-six people were reported dead following the South Korean outbreak.