Imperial College London collaborates with CEPI on Disease X vaccines
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CEPI and Imperial College London collaborate on Disease X vaccines project

10 Dec 2018

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in Norway and Imperial College London have formed an alliance to develop new vaccines against known as well as unknown pathogens, which are commonly referred to as Disease X.

CEPI and Imperial College London collaborate on Disease X vaccines project
New saRNA vaccine platform is expected to transform regional and global preparedness against Disease X outbreaks. Credit: Imperial College London.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in Norway and Imperial College London have formed an alliance to develop new vaccines against known as well as unknown pathogens, which are commonly referred to as Disease X.

Under the $8.4m project, the partners will create a synthetic, self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) vaccine platform called RapidVac for the quick development of vaccines.

The saRNA technology will leverage the body’s own cell system to make an antigen in order to trigger an immune response, rather than directly injecting the antigen.

Development of vaccines currently takes approximately ten years, however, the new collaboration aims to cut this time to a total of 16 weeks – from identification of antigen to release of the product for clinical trials.

Imperial College London Mucosal Infection and Immunity chair Robin Shattock said: “We believe that synthetic self-amplifying RNA based vaccines offer the best opportunity for a ‘just in time’ response to infectious outbreaks, providing the needed technological shift to aggressively redefine the timelines for vaccine production.”

Imperial will lead a consortium to create the RapidVac platform, which will be used to generate vaccines to protect from influenza (H1N1), rabies and Marburg viruses.

The partners expect the new vaccine platform to aid both regional and global preparedness against outbreaks of Disease X by allowing rapid production of large volumes of ‘single-shot’ and ‘cocktail’ vaccines within weeks.

“We cannot predict where or when Disease X will strike, but by developing these kinds of innovative vaccine technologies we can be ready for it.”

CEPI CEO Richard Hatchett said: “Our partnership with Imperial represents a vital part of our plan to create vaccine platforms that can significantly reduce vaccine development times—from a matter of years to weeks.

“We cannot predict where or when Disease X will strike, but by developing these kinds of innovative vaccine technologies we can be ready for it.”

CEPI works towards development of vaccines for various diseases. In September this year, the organisation partnered with The Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford and Janssen Vaccines & Prevention to create a vaccine against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

In August, Emergent BioSolutions and Profectus BioSciences received a contract from CEPI to develop and manufacture a vaccine to protect from Lassa virus.

Austrian company Themis Bioscience obtained a similar contract in March for both Lassa fever and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) vaccines.