U.K.-based Cobra Biologics and noted medical university the Karolinska Institute, which is based in Sweden, secured millions in emergency funding from Horizon 2020 to support research and development and an eventual Phase I clinical trial testing of a DNA vaccine against COVID-19.
Horizon 2020, a European Union research and innovation program, awarded €3 million (about $3.32 million) emergency funds to develop the vaccine candidate as part of the OPENCORONA consortium to support global efforts tackling the pandemic. OPENCORONA is a group of collaborators aimed at tackling COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has swept across the globe with more than 730,000 infected individuals. Partners in the consortium also include Karolinska University Hospital, Public Health Authority (FoHM), IGEA, Adlego AB and Giessen University.
The initial aim of the vaccine will use Cobra’s 50L DNA suite in Sweden to produce the plasmid DNA that will be used to create a viral antigen as a vaccine. The DNA vaccine platform is currently one of the most rapid and robust vaccine platforms available, Cobra said in its announcement. The plasmid production will support the vaccine development process in accordance with GMP and with a new kind of ‘open’-ness that will help to speed the fight against COVID-19 by making relevant data and research results available to the wider scientific community, Cobra said in its announcement. While little is known about the vaccine candidate, Cobra said it anticipates first-in-human trials will begin in 2020 and take place at the Karolinska University Hospital
Cobra Chief Executive Officer Peter Coleman said the partners within the OPENCORONA consortium are all experts in their fields and have the capabilities to develop a successful vaccine against COVID-19. He said the company is privileged to take part in the battle against the pandemic.
Matti Sällberg, head of the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Karolinska Institutet, said the need to find a vaccine is urgent and the OPENCORONA consortium is working quickly to address that need. The funding from Horizon2020 will allow the team to focus on the research as they move to develop the candidate.
Currently, there are no COVID-19 vaccines available but multiple companies have focused their R&D on developing a vaccine for the disease. Last week, Sanofi entered into its second partnership to develop a potential vaccine. The French pharma giant has teamed up with both Translate Bio and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop a vaccine candidate. Sanofi and Translate are focused on developing a mRNA candidate and with BARDA, it is developing a recombinant, protein-based vaccine candidate against COVID-19.
Sanofi isn’t the only company developing a mRNA vaccine candidate. Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech are teaming up to aim BioNTech’s BNT162, an mRNA-based vaccine candidate, at the disease. The vaccine candidate is currently in the preclinical stage, but is expected to enter the clinic next month.
Earlier this month, Moderna dosed the first patient with its mRNA vaccine candidate. As BioSpace previously reported, Moderna’s mRNA-1273 is a mRNA vaccine that encodes for a prefusion stabilized form of the Spike (S) protein.