Cobra Biologics (Cobra), an international CDMO for biologics and pharmaceuticals, and the Karolinska Institutet (KI), one of the world’s leading medical universities, have announced they have been awarded €3 million emergency funding by Horizon 2020 for research and development, and phase I clinical trial testing of a DNA vaccine against COVID-19, as part of the OPENCORONA consortium to support global efforts tackling the pandemic. Partners in the consortium also include Karolinska University Hospital, Public Health Authority (FoHM), IGEA, Adlego AB and Giessen University.
The project is called OPENCORONA and the application, ‘Rapid therapy development through Open Coronavirus Vaccine Platform’, was one of the first two to be successfully selected by the European Commission, with 17 applications chosen out of 91, receiving €47.5million in total. The aim of the project is to manufacture a DNA vaccine, which will be delivered to patient muscle to generate a viral antigen on which the immune system then reacts. The ‘open’ project will utilize Cobra’s 50L DNA suite in Sweden to produce the plasmid DNA. The plasmid production will support the vaccine development process in accordance with GMP and with a new kind of ‘open’-ness that will help to speed the fight against COVID-19 by making relevant data and research results available to the wider scientific community.
To date, no approved human COVID-19 immunotherapy or vaccine exists, and in response to the outbreak, speed in therapy and vaccine R&D is critical. Harnessing each partner’s expertise and experience in reliable development manufacturing, the OPENCORONA consortium is using the DNA vaccine platform as it is currently one of the most rapid and robust vaccine platforms available. First trials in humans will begin in 2021 and will take place at the Karolinska University Hospital.
Peter Coleman, Chief Executive at Cobra Biologics, said: “The partners within the OPENCORONA consortium are all industry experts, with the expertise, track record and belief to deliver a successful outcome. Cobra is privileged to have been invited to participate and contribute to fight against COVID-19, as this virus continues to impact the globe exponentially.”
Matti Sällberg, Head of Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, commented: “The need to find an effective vaccine is urgent and we are working as quickly as possible to find one. With this funding from the EU we will have secured a significant part of the financing going forward, which means that we can focus entirely on the research. It is a relief to know that we are now financed all the way to studies in humans.”
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