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VBI Vaccines has partnered with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to create a pan-coronavirus vaccine candidate.

The candidate will aim to target Covid-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) infections caused by different coronaviruses.

VBI will offer its viral vaccine expertise, eVLP technology platform and coronavirus antigens.

Meanwhile, NRC will contribute to the alliance via its Covid-19 antigens and assay development capabilities. The partners intend to discover a vaccine candidate the most immunogenic.

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VBI Vaccines chief medical officer Francisco Diaz-Mitoma said: “Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses by nature which we believe makes them a prime target for VBI’s flexible enveloped virus-like particle (eVLP) platform technology, ongoing development of which is led and conducted at our research facility in Ottawa, Canada.

“Based on past clinical experience with the eVLP platform, we expect that a multivalent eVLP vaccine candidate, co-expressing SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV spike proteins on the same particle, will be possible to develop.”

Diaz-Mitoma added that the trivalent construct may facilitate the generation of broadly reactive antibodies that could potentially protect from mutated Covid-19 strains in the future.

VBI Vaccines and NRC will work together to assess and select the optimal candidate.

The plan is to conduct IND-enabling pre-clinical studies at NRC’s core facilities and VBI’s research facility in Ottawa, Canada. The company expects the clinical study materials to be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

NRC Life Sciences vice-president Roman Szumski said: “We are working hard to be part of the solution in this time of increasing uncertainty by providing key Canadian expertise and facilities to help address the real and potential global impacts of Covid-19.”

According to John Hopkin’s University, Covid-19 has led to nearly 874,000 confirmed cases and 43,200 deaths to date.