Business & Finance
CEPI Partners with Affinivax to Develop a Novel COVID-19 Vaccine to Target Variants
13 December 2021 - - Norwegian foundation CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and US-based biopharmaceutical company Affinivax, Inc have forged a partnership to advance the development of a novel vaccine that could provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants, and potentially other betacoronaviruses, the principals said.

CEPI will provide funding of up to USD 4.5m to support the initial development of a vaccine candidate based on Affinivax's innovative Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS) technology platform.

CEPI's investment in Affinivax will fund vaccine candidate design and selection, manufacturing process development and preclinical testing against specific SARS-CoV-2 variants.

The collaborative program aims to establish preclinical proof of concept for a novel vaccine candidate designed to protect against new COVID-19 variants and that is also suitable for use in low- and middle-income countries.

CEPI will evaluate the potential for further investment in the development of this vaccine candidate based on the data derived from this initial partnership with Affinivax.

The MAPS technology platform may potentially be applicable for developing vaccines which are protective against a range of betacoronaviruses, as well as other pathogens in the CEPI portfolio, including 'Disease X' which represents unknown pathogens with pandemic potential.

The MAPS technology platform has been clinically validated with Affinivax's lead 24-valent pneumococcal vaccine candidate, which was observed to be safe and well tolerated and generated an antibody response to each of the 24 pneumococcal polysaccharides and to the two conserved pneumococcal proteins in a Phase 2 clinical trial.

CEPI is committed to the principle of equitable access to the vaccines it funds. Under the terms of the funding agreement, Affinivax has committed to achieving equitable access to the outputs of this project, in line with CEPI's Equitable Access Policy.

This grant is the third to have been issued in response to a CEPI Call for Proposals issued in March 2021, and additional awards are expected to be announced shortly.

The programme forms part of CEPI's next 5-year plan, published in March, which aims to reduce or even eliminate the future risk of pandemics and epidemics.

CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines against future epidemics.

Prior to COVID-19, CEPI's work focused on developing vaccines against the Ebola Virus Disease, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever virus and Chikungunya virus.

It has over 20 vaccine candidates against these pathogens in development. CEPI has also invested in new platform technologies for rapid vaccine development against unknown pathogens (Disease X).

During the current pandemic, CEPI initiated multiple programmes to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants with a focus on speed, scale and access.

These programmes leverage the rapid response platforms developed by CEPI's partners prior to the emergence of COVID-19, as well as new collaborations.

The aim is to advance clinical development of a diverse portfolio of safe and effective COVID-19 candidates and to enable fair allocation of these vaccines worldwide through COVAX.

CEPI's 5-year plan lays out a USD 3.5bn roadmap to compress vaccine development timelines to 100 days, develop a broadly protective vaccine against COVID-19 and other Betacoronaviruses, and create a "library" of vaccine candidates for use against known and unknown pathogens.

Affinivax is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company pioneering the development of a novel class of vaccines designed to induce broad and robust protective immune responses to both disease-relevant polysaccharides and proteins in a single vaccine.

Affinivax designs each of its vaccine candidates to optimize the protective immune response to one or both of these types of antigens utilizing the distinctive plug-and-play nature of its proprietary MAPS platform technology.

Vaccines using the MAPS technology platform offer the possibility to address major healthcare challenges posed by antimicrobial-resistant or novel pathogens.

Affinivax was founded in 2014 with a seed investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an exclusive license to the MAPS technology from Boston Children's Hospital.