Pan-Coronavirus Program Overview
VBI is applying its eVLP Platform in the development of a preventative pan-coronavirus vaccine candidate targeting COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (“SARS”), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (“MERS”). Enveloped virus-like particle (“eVLP”) vaccines closely mimic the structure of viruses found in nature, but without the viral genome, potentially yielding safer and more potent vaccine candidates.
VBI is developing its pan-coronavirus vaccine candidate in collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada (“NRC”), Canada’s largest federal research and development organization. The collaboration will combine VBI’s viral vaccine expertise and coronavirus antigens with the NRC’s uniquely-designed COVID-19 antigens and assay development capabilities to identify the most immunogenic vaccine candidate for further development.
Following IND-enabling pre-clinical studies, conducted at both the NRC core facilities and at VBI’s research facility in Ottawa, Canada, VBI believes that clinical study materials could be available in Q4 2020.
Coronavirus Medical Need
Coronaviruses are a large family of enveloped viruses that usually cause respiratory illness of varying severities, including the common cold and pneumonia. Only seven coronaviruses are known to cause disease in humans, four of which most frequently cause symptoms of the common cold. Three of the seven coronaviruses, however, have more serious outcomes in people. These include (1) SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus identified as the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”); (2) MERS-CoV, identified in 2012 as the cause of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS); and (3) SARS-CoV, identified in 2002 as the cause of an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
COVID-19 is now the third, and to-date the most widespread, coronavirus outbreak in the 21st century, and while it is clearly a priority at this time, there remains an unmet medical need for broader protection against emerging coronaviruses.
VBI is exploring the development of a multivalent eVLP vaccine candidate, co-expressing SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV proteins on the same particle. The trivalent construct could allow for the production of broadly reactive antibodies, which have the potential to offer protection from mutated strains of COVID-19 that may emerge over time.