Located in Norway, the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has given a $4.3 million grant to Israel’s MigVax to speed up the development of its oral COVID-19 vaccine tablet. This award is a part of a program worth $200 million for fast-tracking the development of vaccines that offer broad protection against the coronavirus as well as any future variants of the virus that may pop up. The CEPI also gave a grant to the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. David Zigdon, the CEO of MigVax said that they were pleased that the CEPI also shares their belief regarding the subunit oral vaccine tablet that could help the world in returning to the ‘new normal’.
As a matter of fact, he added that 20 months of dealing with COVID-19 has shown that it is not just getting the virus under control that’s challenging, but actually keeping it in control as well. He went on to say that oral vaccines, such as their MigVax-101, can assist health organizations in transitioning to routine from panic mode, especially as they protect against future variants as well. This would significantly reduce the cost of vaccination programs and also help expand them. The chief executive said that they would make full use of the grant for bringing the oral vaccine to the market faster and explore its use against future potential variants.
The name of the oral tablet is MigVax-101 and the company is an affiliate of MIGAL Galilee Research Institute. As opposed to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that utilize messenger RNA, this one is an oral subunit. It means that the vaccine does not introduce pathogen particles when presenting the immune system with the coronavirus antigen. MIGAL was the first company in the world to announce that it would introduce a vaccine in the market. The announcement was made in February 2020 and Ofir Akunis, the science and technology minister back then, promised that the vaccine would be available within a couple of weeks or 90 days.
However, the company went silent soon after. It spoke up in June 2021 and said that they were launching clinical trials and wanted to have the vaccine ready for people by next year. According to a release, both Canadian and Israeli projects want to develop vaccines that are ‘variant proof’ and can also be useful in protecting against any future variants of COVID-19 that might emerge in the future. The investment of the organization will go towards candidate and antigen selection, manufacturing process development, vaccine formulation and preclinical testing.
In return for the grant, these organizations have to make the outputs accessible in accordance with the Equitable Access Policy of CEPI. This would mean that vaccines can be used free of charge if and when an outbreak occurs. The CEPI had called for proposals in March 2021 and granted these awards in response. They are expected to announce additional awards soon. Launched in 2017, CEPI is a partnership of civil, public, philanthropic and private organizations.