VBI Vaccines Inc. (NASDAQ: VBIV) (“VBI”), a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company developing next-generation infectious disease and immuno-oncology vaccines, today announced a collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Canada’s largest federal research and development organization, to develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine candidate, targeting COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

“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,” said Francisco Diaz-Mitoma, M.D., Ph.D., VBI’s Chief Medical Officer. “Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses by nature which we believe makes them a prime target for VBI’s flexible enveloped virus-like particle (eVLP) platform technology, ongoing development of which is led and conducted at our research facility in Ottawa, Canada. Based on past clinical experience with the eVLP platform, we expect that a multivalent eVLP vaccine candidate, co-expressing SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV spike proteins on the same particle, will be possible to develop. Moreover, we believe the trivalent construct could allow for the production of broadly reactive antibodies, which offer potential for protection from mutated strains of COVID-19 that may emerge over time. We share the NRC’s commitment to public health and we look forward to working with them to quickly address the ongoing pandemic.”

“We are working hard to be part of the solution in this time of increasing uncertainty by providing key Canadian expertise and facilities to help address the real and potential global impacts of COVID-19,” said Roman Szumski, Vice President, Life Sciences at the NRC.

Laksmi Krishnan, Director General of the NRC’s Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre, further commented, “The COVID-19 antigens designed at the NRC have been developed and manufactured in a well-known and proven cell line, and we believe that our access to critical samples can accelerate candidate evaluation. We have a successful track record of working with VBI and this collaboration further builds upon validated research and proven technologies, all of which we believe strengthen our approach to develop a differentiated, broadly reactive, multivalent vaccine candidate.”

The collaboration will combine VBI’s viral vaccine expertise, eVLP technology platform, 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.

Under the terms of the agreement, the NRC and VBI will collaborate to evaluate and select the optimal vaccine candidate. 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.

About Coronaviruses

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).1,2

  1. “Coronavirus.” World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus.
  2. “Coronaviruses.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/coronaviruses