The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has awarded its first contract to Austrian company Themis Bioscience for the development and manufacture of new vaccines against Lassa fever and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
$37.5m will be provided by CEPI over a period of five years to fund Themis’ development of vaccine candidates up to the end of Phase II trials. It will also be used to provide clinical safety and immunological data, and establish investigational stockpiles ready for clinical efficacy studies during outbreaks.
CEPI is an alliance to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines. It was founded in 2017 by the governments of Norway, Germany, India and Japan, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome and the World Economic Forum.
Themis will apply its platform technology to discoveries made by Institut Pasteur on Lassa fever and the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut on MERS. It will advance the candidates up to human proof-of-concept and safety studies.
The company’s versatile technology platform is also being used to develop vaccines candidates against chikungunya virus, Zika virus, respiratory syncytial virus, norovirus and cytomegalovirus.
CEPI CEO Dr Richard Hatchett said: “Establishing our partnership with Themis represents not only an important step in our journey towards tackling these diseases, but also a breakthrough in how we can partner and work with vaccine developers when traditional market incentives for development have failed.
“As we can see with the current outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria, these diseases devastate lives and have far reaching economic consequences.
“Vaccines are a vital part of our fight against them but their development is costly, complex and challenging.”
Since its launch in January 2017, CEPI has announced two Calls for Proposals. The first was for was for candidate vaccines against MERS, Nipah and Lassa viruses, and the second was for the identification of platforms for rapid vaccine development against unknown pathogens.