CEPI—the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations—today announced a collaboration with Profectus BioSciences, Inc. and Emergent BioSolutions Inc. under which Profectus and Emergent will receive up to $25 million to advance the development and manufacture of a vaccine against the Nipah virus, a bat-borne virus that can spread to both humans and livestock.
Under the terms of the Framework Partnering Agreement for the collaboration among the three parties, Profectus will receive development funding from CEPI for advancing its Nipah virus vaccine and Emergent will provide technical and manufacturing support for the CEPI-funded program. Emergent, through a separate agreement with Profectus, has an exclusive option to license and to assume control of development activities for the Nipah virus vaccine from Profectus. The international nonprofit organization PATH will also be working with the consortium under a separate agreement with CEPI to work on clinical development.
Nipah virus (NiV) and Hendra virus (HeV) are closely related Paramyxoviruses that cause respiratory and encephalitis disease in a variety of animal hosts and in humans. The natural reservoir for these viruses is thought to be flying foxes (bats of the genus Pteropus) found in Southeast Asia and Malaysia. Human infection occurs after direct exposure to tissues and secretions from infected horses, pigs, and bats. There is currently no approved vaccine or therapeutic against either NiV or HeV. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care, and the mortality rate is high at approximately 75% of cases.
The Southern India state of Kerala is currently in the midst of a Nipah Virus (NiV) outbreak. Kerala state’s health department said the outbreak total has reached 36 cases, 14 of them confirmed and 22 suspected, including 11 confirmed deaths. These are the first documented cases in Kerala.
Related: What is Nipah virus?
Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said: “The current outbreak of Nipah in India, the government of which is one of CEPI’s founders, demonstrates that this is a deadly pathogen that has already travelled thousands of kilometers, has serious epidemic potential and the ability to surprise us. This is the first funding agreement we have signed to develop a vaccine against Nipah and our partnership with Profectus, Emergent, and PATH represents a vital move forward in the global battle against this devastating disease.”
The investment of up to $25 million represents an innovative approach to funding vaccine development, unlocking research and development potential so that vaccines are ready for efficacy studies during an outbreak. The agreement will enable funding for development efforts over a five-year period.