Peer-reviewed research published this week showed the novel vaccine – developed at Caltech and The University of Oxford - provided broad protection in pre-clinical trials. The funding will support its development through Phase 1 trials, with the aim to establish first-in-human clinical proof of concept for the vaccine.
CEPI (The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) has partnered with a consortium of research and technological institutions to develop the vaccine. The project will be led in manufacturing efforts by UK-based deep tech innovation organization CPI, and manufactured using microbes engineered by Ingenza. The funding follows initial investment in Caltech's technology from Wellcome Leap.
The new vaccine—which aims to create immunity to both known and future strains—is designed to focus the immune response on parts of RBD (receptor binding domain) shared by all viruses in the SARS-like betacoronavirus family, including future variants.
It does this by presenting spike protein fragment RBDs from SARS-CoV-2 together with RBDs from seven other different types of coronaviruses on protein nanoparticles termed 'mosaic-8' nanoparticles.
These coronavirus RBDs are attached to a nanoparticle by protein tags, enabling the structure to display fragments from multiple viruses on a single nanoparticle. The nanoparticle contains a protein ‘glue’ on its surface that attaches to engineered coronavirus fragments like ‘velcro,’ an innovative approach to permanently link proteins to each other.
The research published in Science this week demonstrates that this mosaic-8 nanoparticle vaccine technology elicits protective immune responses in preclinical models against SARS-like betacoronaviruses with components displayed on the mosaic nanoparticle as well as coronaviruses from which no components were displayed. This included SARS-like betacoronaviruses seen in animals with the potential to spillover to humans.
These findings suggest that the technology may also provide protection against future novel SARS-CoV-2 variants and as-yet-undiscovered coronaviruses that could transfer into the human population in the future.