As coronavirus outbreak reaches 'tipping point,' GSK lends adjuvant tech to Chinese partner armed with preclinical vaccine
As the coronavirus originating out of Wuhan spreads to South Korea, Italy and Iran, stoking already intense fears of a pandemic, GlaxoSmithKline has found another pair of trusted hands to place its adjuvant system. China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals will add the adjuvant to its preclinical, protein-based vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2.
Clover, which is based in the inland city of Chengdu, boasts of a platform dubbed Trimer-Tag that produces covalently-trimerized fusion proteins. Its candidate, COVID-19 S-Trimer, resembles the viral spike (S)-protein found in the virus.
Thomas Breuer, CMO of GSK Vaccines, praised the research as “cutting edge” and their proposal promising.
Earlier this month the pharma giant put out word that it’s making its platform available to a network of investigators affiliated with CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation in Oslo.
“The use of an adjuvant is of particular importance in a pandemic situation since it may reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and therefore contributing to protect more people,” Breuer said in a statement.
There’s no timeline on when their candidate might be ready for a clinical trial, let alone becoming commercially available. But Clover said it has “one of the largest in-house, commercial-scale cGMP biomanufacturing capabilities in China,” which would allow it to rapidly scale up production of a new vaccine.
Whereas doctors in China and around the world have had some success treating Covid-19 patients with unproven but seemingly effective therapies — from HIV drugs to a malaria med to other experimental antivirals — the plight of Wuhan has demonstrated how the sheer size of the patient population can overwhelm medical systems and leave many behind. These fears are exacerbated by the updates pouring in from Iran, where 50 new deaths have been reported in one city, as well as Korea, whose caseload has surged to over 800 in a matter of days. Vaccines remain the Holy Grail.
Aside from the more traditional approach, CEPI is also backing new efforts to develop an mRNA vaccine, which would hijack the cell’s machinery and coax the body to make its own antigens that then kick up an immune response. Both CEPI partner CureVac and Moderna, working with the NIH, have indicated that they will be ready for human testing early this summer — a much faster pace albeit for a much newer technology.
The ability to mass manufacture any successful mRNA vaccines that emerge, though, still remains in question and the NIH has pleaded with large drugmakers to step up.