UK-based Barinthus Biotherapeutics, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the University of Oxford are working together to fast-track the development of a vaccine candidate for the prevention of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The partners plan to take a MERS vaccine from early development through Phase II clinical trials. If the Phase II clinical trials are successful, an investigational ready reserve of 100,000 doses will be developed to quickly enter clinical trials in the event of a substantial outbreak.
“Coronaviruses are one of the most urgent infectious disease threats the world faces, so it’s vital that we get on with developing medical defences against this particularly deadly one – MERS,” said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s Chief Executive Officer. “With this project, we will both advance scientific understanding of the coronavirus family as a whole, and at the same time bolster humanity’s ability to respond to an ever-present epidemic threat.”
The partnership builds on the early-stage development of VTP-500, which is based on the same viral vector platform technology as the licensed Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria.
VTP-500 has already completed Phase I clinical trials in Britain and Saudi Arabia, and the University of Oxford is now conducting a CEPI-funded extension to the Phase I trial in the UK to assess vaccination of older adults. The VTP-500 programme was awarded PRIME designation earlier in December by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Bill Enright, Barinthus Bio’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “There is an active need for a MERS vaccine for at-risk populations and travellers in the Middle East. As we observed during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is critical to ensure we have the necessary countermeasures in place to protect people around the world from deadly pathogens such as MERS which have the potential for future outbreaks.”