CEPI – The Coalition for Epidemic Prepardness Innovations – has developed the network in order to standardize the evaluation process of COVID-19 vaccines candidates. It aims to minimise variations in results that could otherwise occur from individual laboratory assessments using different tests and techniques.
The global consortium has now reached seven testing laboratories across the world. The other five laboratories are Nexelis (Canada) and Public Health England (PHE, UK); VisMederi Srl (Italy); Viroclinics-DDL (The Netherlands); icddr,b (formerly International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh); and Translational Health Sciences and Technological Institute (THSTI, India).
The labs have been selected on the basis of their quality systems, their capacity to perform tests, their ability to work internationally with the same protocols, and track record in receiving and handling samples from different places, among other criteria.
The labs in the consortium accept samples from volunteers in phase 1 and 2 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials; as well as samples from preclinical studies. With additional labs joining the network, it becomes easier for vaccine developers to find a lab in their local region to ship clinical trial samples to - saving time and money.
The NIBSC has also received funding from CEPI to develop an international antibody standard for COVID-19.
The antibody standard will be developed from a pool of samples from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. These people who have been naturally infected are likely to have a strong immune response (ie, more antibodies); and thus can be used as the basis for creating a 'gold standard' to be used when assessing samples from individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
CEPI is a partnership launched at Davos in 2017 to develop vaccines: involving public, private, philanthropic and civil organisations. It has been working with the WHO in response to COVID-19.
CEPI has initiated nine partnerships to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus. Alongside Gavi and the World Health Organization, CEPI is co-leading COVAX to develop, manufacture and fairly allocate two billion doses of vaccine by the end of 2021.
Before the emergence of COVID-19, CEPI’s priority diseases included Ebola virus, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever and Chikungunya virus. CEPI also invested in platform technologies that can be used for rapid vaccine and immunoprophylactic development against unknown pathogens (Disease X).