The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in 2019 and subsequent COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing Ebola and Lassa fever epidemics in western and southern Africa demonstrate the urgent need for vaccines and therapeutics against emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. IAVI has a robust vaccine and antibody pipeline to address such challenges.
IAVI’s emerging infectious diseases (EID) vaccine platform includes four vaccine candidates to prevent diseases of global importance:
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Lassa fever
- Marburg virus disease
- Ebola Sudan virus disease
The urgency for a COVID-19 vaccine is clear, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified viruses that cause the other diseases such as hemmorhagic fever viruses listed above as high-priority agents that pose a risk to national security. They have high case fatality rates, and in addition to being epidemic threats, have potential to be used for bioweapons.
IAVI’s EID vaccine candidates are based on a live, replication-competent recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vector similar to the technology used to develop Merck’s highly effective Ebola Zaire virus vaccine, ERVEBO®, that was recently approved in 2019 by the European Commission, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and, in 2020, regulators in several African countries. See graphic, below.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is the main funder of IAVI’s Lassa fever vaccine program. The U.S. Department of Defense/Defense Threat Reduction Agency is the main funder of IAVI’s Marburg vaccine program. The Government of Japan in collaboration with the World Bank has committed to contribute to IAVI’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
Scientists at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center 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. In preclinical studies, animals that received the most neutralizing antibody were protected against disease after challenge with SARS-CoV-2. The results were published in Science in June 2020. A Phase I clinical trial investigating the use of this highly potent monoclonal antibody (mAb) to treat COVID-19 is expected to begin later in 2020.
IAVI is committed to ensuring that the mAbs we develop are affordable and globally accessible to the people who need them. To this end, we have leveraged our experience with HIV/AIDS, a pandemic that rivals the scale of COVID-19. IAVI has extensive experience in the development of highly potent broadly neutralizing antibodies for HIV prevention that are designed to be affordable and available to the millions of people around the world who are at risk for HIV infection. Specific mechanisms to ensuring global access to COVID-19 innovations will be part of IAVI’s manufacturing and commercialization strategy and will require global funding and distribution mechanisms and additional partnerships and alliances, an area where IAVI has longstanding experience.