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Covid-19: Coalition pledges $42m to develop broad protection vaccine against betacoronaviruses

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o628 (Published 09 March 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:o628
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has pledged up to $42m to support the development of a vaccine that could provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 as well as other betacoronaviruses including severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The vaccine development is being led by biotech company DIOSynVax—which came out of the University of Cambridge. Unlike most other covid-19 vaccines, DIOSynVax is not focusing on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as this is vulnerable to mutation. Instead, it is looking at the whole family of coronaviruses to target areas that cannot mutate without the viruses dying or impairing their own ability to replicate.1

If successful, the team will produce an antigen structure made from multiple synthetic antigens—known as a vaccine antigen payload—that can then be delivered using different vaccine vectors, such as mRNA, adenovirus, and protein based platforms.

The funding was announced at the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit in London on 8 March, which was co-hosted by CEPI and the UK government. As part of the funding agreement, DIOSynVax has committed to achieving equitable access, in line with CEPI’s equitable access policy.2

Commenting on the announcement, research lead Jonathan Heeney, professor of comparative pathology at Cambridge University, said, “Our approach is to be ahead of the next pandemic—to deliver custom designed, immune selected vaccine antigens, which is ideal to prevent diseases caused by complex viruses such as the large and diverse family of coronaviruses. If successful, it will result in a safe, affordable vaccine for widespread use.”

CEPI chief executive officer Richard Hatchett said, “I am excited to further strengthen CEPI’s strong ties to British science through this partnership with DIOSynVax to develop a vaccine with the potential to protect against variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other betacoronaviruses in the future.

“Coronaviruses have now proven their pandemic potential, so it’s imperative for global health security that we invest in research and development now to futureproof the world against the threat of coronaviruses.”

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