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Bharat Biotech consortium gets $19-m funding to develop ‘variant-proof’ Covid vaccine

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Part of a $200-million programme to develop vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-Cov-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses

The need to develop newer vaccines for newer variants of Covid-19 may soon be a thing of the past. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has announced funding support of $19.3 million for a project that seeks to develop a ‘variant-proof’ SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate.

The international multidisciplinary consortium comprising Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL), the University of Sydney (Australia), and ExcellGene SA, Switzerland, will further the research with funding from CEPI.

The funding is part of CEPI’s $200-million programme to advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-Cov-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses.

“While the current generation of vaccines are safe and effective against currently known variants, it is imperative that we focus on innovation for multi-epitope vaccines, where a single vaccine can protect against all future variants,” said Krishna Ella, Chairman & Managing Director of BBIL.

The consortium seeks to establish pre-clinical and clinical proof of concept for an adjuvanted subunit vaccine designed to provide broad protection against all known SARS-CoV-2 variants as well as future variants of the virus.

“The award will fund research activities such as immunogen design, pre-clinical studies, manufacturing process development and a Phase-1 clinical trial,” a CEPI statement said.

Access to vaccines

Under the terms of the funding agreement, the consortium partners have agreed to achieve equitable access to the outputs of this project.

“As repeated waves of Covid-19 infection remind us, we will be living alongside the virus for many years to come. The threat of a new variant emerging that might evade the protection of our current vaccines is real,” Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer of CEPI, said.

“Investing in research and development for variant-proof SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is a global health security imperative. Our partnership with Bharat Biotech, University of Sydney and ExcellGene will advance the development of a vaccine candidate to protect against future variants of Covid-19, potentially contributing to long-term control of the virus,” he said.

Ever evolving dangers

Though vaccines have dramatically altered the course of the Covid-19 pandemic in various countries, emerging variants that are more transmissible, more deadly, and can evade protection provided by current vaccines could create significant challenges. “Developing novel vaccines that target multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and have the potential to generate immunity against all of them is, therefore, essential for the long-term control of the virus,” CEPI felt.

Published on May 10, 2022

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