CanSino taps Aerogen for development, commercial supply of inhaled COVID-19 vaccine hopeful

After months of collaborative work in the lab, China's CanSino Biologics and Irish drug delivery specialist Aerogen are taking their inhaled COVID-19 vaccine pact to the next stage.

CanSino and Aerogen are teaming up to develop and market an inhaled version of CanSino's recombinant COVID-19 shot Convidecia, which is already approved in China as a one-and-done injectable. Because aerosol delivery requires a "considerably smaller volume of vaccine," the partners' inhaled prospect could help stretch capacity and enable more patients to access the inoculation, the companies said.

Outside of China, Convidecia boasts emergency authorizations in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Indonesia, Hungary and Pakistan. The shot is around 63.7% effective against COVID-19 two weeks after vaccination, and 96% effective against severe disease over that same time frame, a CanSino representative said during an October World Health Organization presentation. At 28 days, overall efficacy dropped to 57.5%, while efficacy in severe disease hovered around 91.7%.

As for the inhaled candidate, CanSino's vaccine will leverage Aerogen's vibrating mesh aerosol drug delivery technology, the companies said. The aerosolized vaccine is directly inhaled through a cup dispenser into the patient's airway, mimicking the respiratory virus's natural infection pathway. This delivery route could further help patients, thanks to the potential for mucosal immunity, the partners said.

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CanSino and Aerogen are keeping the financial terms of the development and commercial supply deal close to the vest for now. CanSino said it's priming an application for marketing authorization in China and preparing for clinical trials in other countries.

As for just how much extra product the companies could garner using their inhalable approach, CanSino and Aerogen offered few specifics. Still, Aerogen CEO and founder John Power believes the delivery route could satisfy the demand for a coronavirus vaccine on a huge scale.

"The world has an urgent need for an effective, low cost, globally scalable and globally accessible solution to mass vaccination," Power said in a statement. "The pioneering development undertaken by Aerogen and CanSino has resulted in a system that meets all these requirements and with a capacity to vaccinate in the billions," he continued.

Inhalable drugs and vaccines have been on the R&D agenda since the pandemic's early days, but few of those efforts have amounted to much. One high-profile inhalable that didn't pan out was Gilead Sciences' Veklury, also known as remdesivir. The company was testing an inhaled version of the antiviral in a phase 1 trial earlier this year, but, in July, Gilead canned the prospect.