Canada's National Research Council-Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) has awarded VBI Vaccines ($VBIV) up to CA$350,000 ($265,000) to apply VBI's viruslike particle (VLP) technology in the development of an RSV vaccine, the company announced on Tuesday.
Each year, RSV infection causes more than 57,000 hospitalizations of children younger than 5 years as well as 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths among adults older than 65, reports the CDC. Developing a vaccine for RSV has been a priority for decades, and VBI is joining a race already populated by Bavarian Nordic, Novavax ($NVAX) and AstraZeneca's ($AZN) MedImmune; the latter two have had their RSV candidates fast-tracked by the FDA.
VBI's eVLP platform allows for the design of enveloped VLP vaccines, which closely mimic the structure of enveloped viruses such as RSV, the company said in a statement.
|VBI SVP of Research David Anderson|
According to the statement, "early data suggests that VBI's RSV vaccine candidate may present certain RSV target proteins in an optimal shape and conformation, potentially allowing for a potent and durable immune response." This eVLP approach, the company says, results in vaccines that confer greater immunity than those made using a recombinant protein alone. Bavarian Nordic's candidate is in Phase I, while Novavax's is in two Phase II trials, one in older adults and one in pregnant women. MedImmune's is in a Phase I trial in healthy adults and a Phase Ib/IIa study in healthy preterm infants. All three are testing recombinant RSV vaccines.
"Recent research suggests that the shape, or conformation, of the target proteins in an RSV vaccine may influence the potency and success of the candidate," said David Anderson, VBI's senior vice president of research, in the statement. "We are optimistic that by applying our eVLP Platform technology to RSV, we may contribute to the advancement of an improved RSV vaccine candidate. We are grateful to NRC-IRAP for their support in helping us advance this important research."
VBI, which doesn't market any vaccines yet, is also working on eVLP vaccines for hepatitis C and cytomegalovirus.
- here's the release