A next-gen vaccine that could help end COVID-19 whack-a-mole 

COVID-19 is an emerging focus for EpicentRx, a private biotech focused on multiple immune-mediated disorders. The La Jolla, California–based company is developing a next-gen COVID vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 based on nucleocapsid rather than spike protein. 

The recombinant replication-competent adenoviral vaccine that expresses the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein could be more resistant to COVID-19 variants. 

The real-world effectiveness of spike-protein-based COVID-19 vaccines has generally dipped since their integration as a wave of SARS-CoV-2 variants has emerged. 

But while the spike protein mutates frequently, nucleocapsid doesn’t.

“The RNA for the virus is wrapped around it,” said EpicentRx CEO Dr. Tony Reid. “If it mutates and alters its three-dimensional structure very much, the RNA will unwind, and the virus will be nonviable.” 

EpicentRx plans to work with partners to take a nucleocapsid-based next-gen CO…

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Moderna inks deal with US for up to 300M omicron boosters

The U.S. government will pay $1.74 billion to buy 66 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine made with the new omicron-adapted formula, the drugmaker said today.

The government has the option to acquire up to 300 million total doses of the omicron boosters under the agreement.

The U.S. last month agreed to buy 105 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s updated vaccine for $3.2 billion. That deal similarly includes an option for up to 300 million doses.

Moderna is developing the bivalent vaccine candidate mRNA-1273.222 based on feedback from the FDA. The vaccine incorporates mRNA from the omicron BA.4/5 strain.

“Moderna’s mRNA platform is enabling us to rapidly create mRNA-1273.222, a bivalent vaccine that specifically targets omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, the most prevalent variants of concern in the U.S. today,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a news release.

Scientists are uncertain whether BA.4/BA.5–based v…

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Fall 2022 COVID-19 vaccine candidate tracker

[Photo from Pexels]

Approximately two-thirds of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

But COVID-19 cases remain elevated following the spread of a series of omicron sublineages, which pose a threat to those vaccinated and naturally infected with various lineages of the coronavirus. 

A variety of companies are developing next-generation COVID-19 vaccines that could potentially optimize the strength and durability of immune protection compared to the first crop of vaccines. 

Here, we round up notable COVID-19 vaccine candidates that, at least, could help pave the way for the fall 2022 booster drive.

BNT162b5

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech SE (Nasdaq:BNTX) are developing a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine candidate known as BNT162b5 based on the ancestral strain and a BA.1 Omicron variant. The vaccine has a modified spike protein design to optimize the immune response …

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White House holds next-gen COVID-19 vaccine summit

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The federal government continues to work closely with notable COVID-19 manufacturers, including Moderna and Pfizer, hosting a summit today focused on the future COVID-19 vaccines.

“We need a vaccine that can stand up to multiple variants,” said White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha.

While White House officials called for developing inexpensive novel vaccines that could be delivered nasally or via a skin patch, they did not specify where the funding for such efforts would come from.

As the omicron BA.5 lineage has gained momentum, some pundits have called for the government to spur the development of novel vaccines.

The Biden administration hopes to stymie future SARS-CoV-2 variants, curb infection and transmission of the virus and ensure that future vaccines offer longer-lasting protection.

Moderna and Pfizer are both developing bivalent …

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HHS and DOD order 3 million doses of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

Novavax (Nasdaq:NVAX) announced that its protein-based NVX-CoV2373 COVID-19 vaccine could be the first of its type to be available in the U.S., assuming it wins backing from the FDA and CDC.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have secured 3.2 million doses of Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine.

There are currently two FDA-approved mRNA vaccines and an authorized adenovirus vector vaccine.

The protein-based Novavax vaccine is built using a more traditional technique than rivals and is adjuvanted to enhance the immune response. Hepatitis B and shingles vaccines are also protein-based and adjuvanted.

The vaccine includes a small amount of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

In June, an FDA advisory committee recommended authorization of the Novavax vaccine.

Typically, FDA grants authorization soon after hearing from its advisors but has not yet authorized the Novavax vaccine.

Novavax note…

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CureVac files lawsuit against BioNTech over patent infringement 

The mRNA-focused biopharma CureVac N.V. (Nasdaq:CVAC) has filed a lawsuit in the German Regional Court in Düsseldorf against BioNTech SE (Nasdaq:BNTX) demanding compensation for infringement of CureVac’s patents.

In particular, the lawsuit claims that the four German patents, EP 1 857 122 B1, DE 20 2015 009 961 U1, DE 20 2021 003 575 U1 and DE 20 2015 009 974 U1, were used in the manufacture of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE).

Investors reacted by sending CVAC shares down 1.05% to $14.09. Meanwhile, BNTX shares were up 2.24% to $161.03.

CureVac is not aiming to block the production or distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the past year, CureVac has seen its stock valuation plummet after failing to commercialize its first-generation mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

In June 2021, the company announced that the interim efficacy of the vaccine candidate was 47% in a Phase 2b/3 study.

CureVac is currently par…

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Pfizer and BioNTech forge new COVID-19 vaccine deal with U.S. government

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and its partner BioNTech SE (Nasdaq:BNTX) profited handsomely from COVID-19 vaccine sales in 2021. The firms raked in more than $59 billion in combined sales of the Comirnaty vaccine. 

The two companies have now announced a new vaccine supply agreement with the U.S. government worth $3.2 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, the government will receive 105 million additional doses of the vaccine at the 30 µg, 10 µg and 3 µg dose levels. 

The deal could include an omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine, assuming FDA authorizes an updated booster. 

Yesterday, FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted to back the use of omicron-containing boosters.

Pfizer announced that it could begin shipping doses for the deal as soon as the late summer and continue into the fourth quarter of 2022. 

The U.S. government also has the option to buy up to 195 million additional doses for a total of 300…

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FDA authorizes Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines in young children 

Until recently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was available for all individuals 5 years of age and older, while the Moderna vaccine was authorized for individuals at least 18.

Now, the FDA has authorized the use of both vaccines in children from 6 months to four years old. In addition, the agency also agreed to allow the use of the Moderna vaccine in children aged 5 to 17.

“We know that many parents, caregivers and clinicians have been anxiously awaiting today’s authorizations,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf in a press briefing. “We’re acutely aware of the importance of having vaccines available for our youngest children. And as we’ve seen with the older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection for the most severe outcomes of COVID-19 such as hospitalization and death.”

Califf went on to stress that robust data support the use of safety and effective…

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FDA advisors unanimously back Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines in young children

An FDA panel voted 21 to 0 to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years of age.

Children under the age of 5 constitute the only age group that has not been eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I know there are a lot of very relieved parents,” said Dr. Jon Portnoy, a voting member of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory (VRBPAC) panel. “I understand why parents are very nervous and fearful of doing normal activities, especially if their child actually catches COVID.”

The potential availability of two COVID-19 vaccines for young children “will certainly alleviate a lot of [parents’] concerns,” he added.

VRBPAC member Dr. Ofer Levy emphasized the importance of choice for parents with young children.

“They can partner with their pediatrician to make a decision,” Levy said. Vaccines are a vital tool for fighting COVID-19, especially in communiti…

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Valneva agrees to terminate UK supply agreement for COVID-19 vaccine 

French vaccine company Valneva SE (Nasdaq:VALN; Euronext Paris:VLA) has reached a settlement agreement with regulators in the United Kingdom related to the termination of a supply agreement for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

The company is attempting to salvage a COVID-19 vaccine deal with the EU after regulators announced plans to terminate an Advance Purchase Agreement (APA) related to the vaccine candidate.

VALN shares tumbled 6.87% to $15.73 in afternoon trading.

The company has developed the only whole virus, inactivated, adjuvanted vaccine candidate.

Demand for COVID-19 vaccines has faltered in recent months. The majority of the population in many European countries has been fully vaccinated.

On September 13, 2021, Valneva received a termination notice from the UK government.

The agreement between the parties included a provision giving the UK government the discretionary right to terminate for convenience.

The recent s…

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Sanofi-GSK next-generation COVID-19 booster could go head-to-head against revised Moderna and Pfizer offerings

Sanofi (Nasdaq:SNY) and GSK (NYSE:GSK) have announced that their next-generation COVID-19 booster vaccine candidate based on the beta variant yielded a substantial immune boost in adults previously primed with mRNA vaccines.

The novel vaccine yielded a strong increase in antibody titers above baseline against various variants of concern, including a 40-fold increase against the BA.1 omicron subvariant 15 days after vaccination. The same vaccine also yielded a 15-fold increase against the original D614 virus and a 30-fold increase against the beta strain.

The results were from two studies, the VAT02 Cohort 2 and COVIBOOST VAT013.

The new vaccine candidate elicited a more robust immune response than the Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccine or the first-generation Sanofi-GSK vaccine candidate.

Last week, Moderna (Nasdaq:MRNA) also announced that its bivalent omicron booster vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273.214 yielded 1.75 times more neutralizing antibodies t…

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FDA concludes Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine likely safe and effective in kids under 5

Pfizer-BioNTech

In the U.S., COVID-19 vaccines are widely available to all age groups apart from children under the age of five. However, that could change this month now that FDA has signaled that three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech (NYSE:PFE/Nasdaq BNTX) COVID-19 vaccine are likely effective against COVID-19 in an analysis ahead of a June 15 Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting.

Pfizer and BioNTech, like Moderna (Nasdaq:MRNA), are seeking emergency use authorization (EUA) to use their respective vaccines in children aged six months to four years of age.

Get the full story from our sister site, Drug Discovery & Development.

 

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