The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global alliance financing and coordinating the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, requires at least $2 billion towards preparing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease 19.
Vice-Chair of CEPI Dr Gagandeep Kang told The Indian Express that presently they have $ 800 million and money was now trickling in from many governments and others.
“This will enable CEPI to expand the number of vaccine candidates to increase the chances of success, and to fund the clinical trials for these candidate vaccines. So far, CEPI have initiated 6 partnerships to improve our understanding of and to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus,” Dr Kang said, adding that of these three have delivered vaccine candidates.
CEPI’s aim is to have at least 8 to 10 vaccine candidates which could be evaluated, in the hope of having 1-2 successful vaccines.
Recently, Norway had announced an additional $3.6 million and UK had announced another $25 million funding to CEPI to advance the development of vaccine candidates against the COVID-19 virus. In addition to committing $100 million of its own funds, CEPI has now received $186 million of the $2 billion it estimates is needed to take a COVID-19 vaccine candidate through to licensure and broader use.
“Any clinical trial is expensive and there are multiple vaccine candidates being tested. One vaccine candidate on its own requires funding to the tune of half a billion dollars,” Dr Kang said.
CEPI announced initial funding to Curevac Inc. Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. Moderna Inc and University of Queensland to develop COVID-19 vaccine candidates using innovative platform technologies in January. All four of the first round that CEPI supported has progressed well and CEPI has supported additional organizations – Novavax and University of Oxford for vaccine candidates. CEPI is in discussion with other companies.
Over 30 companies and academic institutions are racing to create a vaccine, including large companies like Johnson and Johnson and Sanofi. The first vaccine candidate produced by Boston based biotech firm Moderna Inc has commenced human trials. Moderna Inc is now being supported by National Institutes of Health, USA. The Phase 1 study will provide data on the safety and immunogenicity of the mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate – This means the ability of the vaccine to induce an immune response in participants.
“It is good that the candidate first supported by CEPI is now being supported by NIH. Many funders will be needed and CEPI is a small and nimble organisation which can help, but has limited resources so seeing others step in is great.” she said. However when asked about a vaccine being ready by this year, Dr Kang seemed doubtful. “A vaccine is unlikely till next year,” Kang said.
CEPI’s priority diseases include Ebola virus, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever virus and Chikungunya virus. CEPI also invests in platform technologies that can be used for rapid vaccine and immunoprophylactic development against unknown pathogens (ie, Disease X). To date, CEPI has committed to investing nearly $480 million in vaccine and platform development.
TRIALS NEEDED FOR ANTI MALARIAL DRUGS
On present treatment for COVID-19 patients, Dr Kang said that antiretroviral drugs and antimalarial drugs look promising but antiretrovirals alone have been shown not to work in a small trial of less than 200 patients.
“For repurposing drugs, we need access to reagents and materials. Limited access to reagents is a challenge for testing repurposed drugs. The persons who were given antiretrovirals in Jaipur as per the WHO protocol are recovering. However, this is not proof and we need to document these cases carefully and share the information. Right now, in India alone, we have too few patients for an Indian clinical trial. So at least in terms of what has already been done for treatment, we need to maintain records of patients to document disease severity, course, and outcome,” Dr Kang said.
“Presently, ICMR has expanded testing to influenza surveillance network samples, but more tests need to be done to check if we are missing cases,” Dr Kang added.
Here’s a quick coronavirus guide for you to stay updated: Who all should be tested for Covid-19 and when? | How should you quarantine yourself? | How often (and how) should you clean your home? | What is the Janata Curfew announced by PM Modi? | Who are restricted from coming to India, and from when? | How long can the virus live on surfaces or in air around you? | Still more Coronavirus Q&A Explained news here
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines