In 2020, IAVI and Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced a collaboration to develop an investigational vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 to be used for the prevention of COVID-19. IAVI’s coronavirus vaccine program uses the recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) technology that is the basis for Merck’s Ebola Zaire virus vaccine, ERVEBO® (Ebola Zaire Vaccine, Live), which was the first rVSV vaccine approved for use in humans. In January 2021, IAVI and Merck announced the decision to discontinue development of an initial rVSV-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, following review of findings from a Phase I clinical study.
IAVI and Merck will continue to evaluate other rVSV-based vaccine candidates. The use of this established vaccine technology could help facilitate regulatory review of the vaccine candidate in the midst of the continuing global public health threat of COVID-19.
The coronavirus vaccine program leverages IAVI’s expertise in rVSV vector technology that it has developed through its rVSV HIV vaccine candidate and its viral hemorrhagic fever vaccine candidates in preclinical development. Much of the research and development on IAVI’s VSV platform is performed at the IAVI Vaccine Design and Development Lab in Brooklyn, New York.
The U.S. Department of Defense/Defense Threat Reduction Agency is supporting IAVI's nonclinical work on its COVID-19 vaccine program. The Government of Japan in partnership with the World Bank has announced their intention to commit significant funding to IAVI’s COVID-19 vaccine development program.
Scientists at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center at Scripps Research and immunologists at Scripps Research were part of a team that identified antibodies from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients that are capable of neutralizing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Animals that received the potent neutralizing antibodies were protected against disease after challenge with SARS-CoV-2. The results were published in Science in June 2020.
The portfolio of mAbs identified by IAVI and Scripps Research scientists and their partners provide the foundation for a comprehensive program with potential application to COVID-19 research, treatment and prevention as well as to other coronaviruses that may arise or re-emerge in the future.
IAVI is committed to ensuring that the mAbs we develop are affordable and globally accessible to the people who need them. Our 2020 global call to action, commissioned by Wellcome, highlights the lack of equitable access to mAbs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We proposed a set of actions that could solve the access problem, including a call for global health players to form innovative partnerships to address the need for affordable mAbs worldwide. Such collaborations to enable affordable access to SARS-CoV-2 mAbs in LMICs could potentially be applied more widely to mAbs for a range of infectious and non-communicable diseases.
Together with partners in India, Africa, and the U.S., IAVI staff and spokespersons have been leading and participating in educational webinar series to provide our stakeholders with timely updates on COVID-19 product development and to help demystify COVID-19 within vulnerable communities. This includes successful series for health and science journalists in India; a primer on vaccine trial ethics review for partners in Africa; and several additional sessions hosted by global partners and media outlets, Visit our YouTube channel to watch IAVI-hosted webinar recordings.
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