08 Apr 2022
April 8, 2022; OSLO, Norway/ TOKYO, Japan: CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and NEC Corporation (NEC: TSE: 6701) today announced the latest funding award under CEPI’s US$200m programme to advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses. CEPI will provide seed funding of up to US$4.8m to NEC OncoImmunity AS (NOI), a Norway-based subsidiary of NEC, which specializes in artificial intelligence-driven biotechnology, to support the initial development of broadly protective betacoronavirus vaccine candidates.
NEC, through NOI, will lead a research consortium including the European Vaccine Initiative (EVI) and Oslo University Hospital to deliver a project which aims to establish preclinical proof of concept for a vaccine based on mRNA technology that protects against a broad range of betacoronaviruses. NEC will apply its experience and capabilities in artificial intelligence-powered design of immunogens to identify novel vaccine antigens with broad reactivity against betacoronaviruses. The lead antigens will be selected iteratively and validated in preclinical studies against known betacoronaviruses that already pose a significant epidemic or pandemic risk, such as SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 & MERS-CoV.
If this innovative approach is proven to be successful, it may also be applicable for developing vaccines against other pathogens in the CEPI portfolio, including ‘Disease X’ – unknown pathogens with pandemic potential that have yet to emerge.
CEPI is committed to the principle of equitable access to the vaccines it funds. Under the terms of the funding agreement, NEC has committed to achieving equitable access to the outputs of this project, in line with CEPI’s Equitable Access Policy.
Chief Executive Officer, CEPI
Chairman of the Board, NEC Corporation
Chief Executive Officer, NEC OncoImmunity AS
Senior Assistant Minister for International Affairs, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan
Professor, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo
Strengthening our defenses against coronaviruses
Through COVID-19, coronaviruses have now demonstrated their devastating pandemic potential. The emergence of a coronavirus combining the transmissibility of COVID-19 with the lethality of SARS or MERS would be catastrophic, so developing vaccines that provide broad protection against the whole betacoronavirus genus is therefore vital to our global health security. CEPI is working closely with partners to advance work in this area as quickly as possible.
The award announced today is the eighth programme to be funded by CEPI to advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses. This work forms an important part of CEPI’s next 5-year plan, published in March 2021, which aims to reduce or even eliminate the future risk of pandemics and epidemics.
 Betacoronaviruses are types of coronavirus that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which have been responsible for major epidemics in Asia and the Middle East in recent years, and also SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Notes to Editors
Including today’s announcement, CEPI has to date announced funding for eight programmes to advance the development of vaccines that could provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses:
–MigVax Ltd – funding of US$4.3m to MigVax Ltd to support the initial development of a new orally administered subunit vaccine tablet that could offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.
–University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) – funding of US$5m to support the initial development of a new vaccine based on VIDO’s novel protein subunit technology that could offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.
–Affinivax – funding of up to $4.5m to support the initial development of a vaccine candidate based on Affinivax’s MAPS platform that could offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.
–SK bioscience – funding of up to US$50m to support the development of a vaccine candidate based on SK’s nanoparticle vaccine platform to elicit immune responses that could protect against variants of both SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and other
–Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) and Panacea Biotec – funding of up to US12.5m to support the development of multi-epitope, nanoparticle-based vaccine candidates that could provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants and other Betacoronaviruses.
–BioNet – funding of up to US$16.9m to advance the development of a novel mRNA-based vaccine that could offer broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants.
–DIOSynVax – funding of up to US$42m to support the development of a broadly protective Betacoronavirus vaccine using mRNA platform technology.
-NEC Corporation – funding of up to US$4.8m to support the initial development of an AI-designed vaccine based on mRNA technology that protects against a broad range of betacoronaviruses.
CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines against future epidemics. Prior to COVID-19, CEPI’s work focused on developing vaccines against the Ebola Virus Disease, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever virus and Chikungunya virus. It has over 20 vaccine candidates against these pathogens in development. CEPI has also invested in new platform technologies for rapid vaccine development against unknown pathogens (Disease X).
During the current pandemic, CEPI initiated multiple programmes to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants with a focus on speed, scale and access. These programmes leverage the rapid response platforms developed by CEPI’s partners prior to the emergence of COVID-19, as well as new collaborations. The aim is to advance clinical development of a diverse portfolio of safe and effective COVID-19 candidates and to enable fair allocation of these vaccines worldwide through COVAX.
CEPI’s 5-year plan lays out a $3.5 billion roadmap to compress vaccine development timelines to 100 days, develop a broadly protective vaccine against COVID-19 and other Betacoronaviruses, and create a “library” of vaccine candidates for use against known and unknown pathogens. The plan is available at http://endpandemics.cepi.net.
About NEC Corporation
NEC Corporation has established itself as a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies while promoting the brand statement of “Orchestrating a brighter world.” NEC enables businesses and communities to adapt to rapid changes taking place in both society and the market as it provides for the social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. For more information, visit NEC at https://www.nec.com.
About NEC OncoImmunity AS
NEC OncoImmunity AS is an AI driven biotechnology company that has developed proprietary machine learning-based software which addresses the key knowledge gaps in the prediction of bona fide immunogenic neoantigens for personalized cancer immunotherapy, in addition to infectious disease vaccines. The AI technology can be used to identify optimal neoantigen targets for truly personalized cancer vaccines & cell therapies in a clinically actionable timeframe, and also facilitate effective patient selection for cancer immunotherapy. For more information, visit NEC OncoImmunity AS at http://www.oncoimmunity.com/
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Phone: +44 7387 055214
Email: [email protected]