The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and CureVac AG have announced a partnership agreement worth up to US$ 34 million for the ongoing development of The RNA Printer™ prototype—a transportable, down-scaled, automated messenger RNA (mRNA) printing facility. This platform will provide a rapid supply of lipid-nanoparticle (LNP)-formulated mRNA vaccine candidates that can target known pathogens (including Lassa Fever, Yellow Fever, and Rabies) and prepare for rapid response to new and previously unknown pathogens (referred to by WHO as “Disease X”).
Under the terms of the three-year partnership agreement, CureVac will use its mRNA plaform to undertake preclinical development of vaccine candidates against Lassa Fever (which is listed on the WHO’s R&D blueprint for priority diseases), Rabies, and Yellow fever. Following successful preclinical tests for the three named indications, two of the vaccine candidates will undergo phase 1 clinical trials in humans.
How LNP-formulated mRNA vaccines work
The genetic blueprint for an organism is contained within its DNA. The genetic code stored inside DNA provides specific instructions for the fabrication of proteins.
A molecule—known as mRNA—transports genetic information from the DNA to the cell machinery responsible for protein production.
Traditional vaccine approaches administer live or inactivated pathogens to generate an immune response. However, the LNP mRNA vaccine candidate delivers mRNA into a cell, instructing it to produce a specific protein or antigen (ie, a foreign substance that induces an immune response). To prevent degradation of the mRNA and improve vaccine effectiveness, the mRNA is also encapsulated in a protective shell of lipid nanoparticles.
“CureVac’s vaccine platform could be a game-changer, radically improving our ability to respond to the emergence of Disease X”, said Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. “Disease X could emerge suddenly and have deadly consquences—we’ve seen this happen with Ebola, MERS coronavirus, Zika, and countless other diseases. That’s why we’re striving to develop rapid-response vaccine platforms—like CureVac’s mRNA technology—to defend against these unknown pathogens. CEPI has now established partnership agreements totaling more than $50 million in three such platforms”.
“CureVac’s mRNA technology can be designed to encode for many proteins or antigens, offering rich potential for the development of vaccines to protect against deadly pathogens,” said Daniel Menichella, CEO of CureVac. “We are excited to be working with CEPI to unlock The RNA Printer™’s potential for rapid onsite delivery to outbreak regions, as well as in hospital pharmacy settings for personalised medicine production.”
The project is scheduled to begin in March, 2019.