An international academic-industry partnership raised nearly $5 million from the international, intergovernmental organization Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for the develop a vaccine for COVID-19. University of Pittsburgh Regional Biocontainment Laboratory will be central for the effort.
The consortium is led by Institut Pasteur in Paris along with Themis in Vienna and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research (CVR) in pursuit of a COVID-19 vaccine with a mission to take to Phase I clinical trials. Paul Duprex, CVR Director and Jonas Salk Chair for Vaccine Research, noted, “There are virologists all around the world who have been trained for this moment.” Duprex continued, “We have colleagues in many parts of the world who collaborate and work with us to share information and knowledge because this is important.”
The team is using a measles vector—meaning a measles vaccine engineered to express COVID-19 proteins on its surface with intention to generate immunity to the virus. The group purports to have a “plug-and-play manufacturing technology” affording them the ability to accelerate vaccine candidate discovery and development, reports Erich Tauber, CEO of Themis.
University of Pittsburgh’s PittWire Health reports that research scientists from all three institutions are collaborating on creating the vaccine and the CVR members are diligently designing animal protocols requiring biocontainment measures for safe handling of potentially lethal airborne pathogens associated with COVID-19.
CVRs’ Regional Biocontainment Laboratories (RBL)
RBL represents a state-of-the-art facility for research on biodefense and emerging infectious diseases. Supported by the National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 2003 with the mandate that CVR supports global outbreaks such as COVID, the group develops animal models while testing vaccine candidates. CVR also is on the shortlist of the U.S. to receive samples of COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is a foundation that takes donations from public, private, philanthropic and civil society organizations to finance independent research projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious disease. It was conceived in 2015 and formally launched in 2017. It was co-founded and co-funded with $460 million form the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Wellcome Trust and a consortium of nations including Norway, Japan and Germany as well as the European Union.
Paul Duprex, CVR Director and Jonas Salk Chair for Vaccine Research