California-based biopharmaceutical company Dynavax (NASDAQ: DVAX) and French specialty vaccine company Valneva SE recently announced a collaboration to advance the development of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The novel SARS-CoV-2coronavirus which was found in humans for the first time late last year is part of a family of viruses that includes MERS and SARS, and which causes serious human infections of the respiratory system. It causes the COVID-19 disease that has infected millions of people and claimed thousands of lives worldwide causing the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a pandemic.
Under the partnership, Dynavax will provide CpG 1018, the adjuvant found in its FDA-approved hepatitis B vaccine, to support the development of Valneva’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Valneva will bring to the table its advanced technical and platform capabilities that will be used to develop an inactivated, whole virus vaccine to combat the deadly coronavirus. The company will need to secure grant funding to fund the investment required for the international program.
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Encephalitis platform the basis for COVID-19 vaccine development
Valneva, which focuses on the prevention of major diseases with unmet needs, presently has the infrastructure to create a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Over the last several weeks, its scientific team has been exploring alternatives to expeditiously leverage its platform in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company has a well-known vaccine by the name of IXIARO which is used for the active immunization of Japanese encephalitis (JE), an infection that occurs in Asia and the west Pacific and can cause swelling of the brain. The virus is spread by infected mosquitoes and is most common in agricultural regions.
Valneva is aiming to replicate its success with the IXIARO platform in development of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. It operates on a Vero-cell based, inactivated, whole virus strategy for the development of the vaccine.
Hepatitis B vaccine component seeks to duplicate success
In addition to its technical expertise, Dynavax will be providing its proprietary toll-like receptor (TLR9) agonist adjuvant, CpG 1018, which is used in its HEPLISAV-B vaccine for adult hepatitis B. The product which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
demonstrated an increased vaccine immune response with hepatitis B. The company believes the CpG 1018 adjuvant has the potential to accelerate the development and large-scale manufacturing of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The collaboration will take place at Valneva’s Biosafety Level 3 laboratory in Livingston, Scotland which is where IXIARO is currently being manufactured. It is also the production site of its VLA1553 vaccine candidate for chikungunya, a viral disease that is also transmitted to humans by mosquitos and can cause fever and severe joint pain.
Dynavax CEO Ryan Spencer commented, “Now more than ever, the world is feeling the crucial role vaccines play in protecting our families, communities, and those at high risk for infectious disease…We are pleased to partner with Valneva on this important development effort to address the global health crisis spawned by COVID-19.”
Dynavax is part of a growing list of companies scrambling to discover an effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine. Along with Valneva, the commercial stage biotechnology company will be working in conjunction with the appropriate regulatory authorities to come up with an optimal strategy to expedite the vaccine candidate’s development. The companies’ goal is to begin clinical trials by the end of 2020.
Dynavax SEC Filings