The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is set to collaborate with the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) and Panacea Biotec for developing vaccine candidates for SARS-Cov-2 viral variants and other Betacoronaviruses.

Betacoronaviruses are kinds of coronavirus that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS) and SARS-CoV-2.

THSTI is an autonomous institute of the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology.

CEPI will offer an award for vaccine development under its $200m programme, unveiled in March last year.

Funds worth up to $12.5m will be provided to aid in developing multi-epitope, nanoparticle-based vaccine candidates as well as to expedite the production process.

The lead antigen will be designed and selected by THSTI and Panacea through proof-of-concept preclinical trials under this research programme.

Furthermore, the consortium will carry out the preliminary clinical development and Phase I/II clinical trials to validate clinical proof of concept for the new vaccines that offer protection against MERS, SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.

The consortium will leverage a new technology platform with highly immunogenic antigens.

According to findings from preclinical studies, the vaccine platform can elicit humoral and cellular mediated immune responses.

In accordance with CEPI’s Equitable Access Policy, the consortium has committed to attaining equitable access to the project’s outputs as per the funding agreement.

CEPI CEO Dr Richard Hatchett said: “SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, will not be the last coronavirus to infect humans and there’s nothing to stop the next one being even more deadly or contagious. 

“It’s therefore vital for global health security that we invest now in research to develop vaccines that are broadly protective against variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses before they emerge.”

In December last year, CEPI and Gritstone bio extended their agreement for the development of a self-amplifying mRNA vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ Omicron variant.