WHO: More than 70 COVID-19 Vaccines are in Development, Three in Clinical Trials


More than 2 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and the pharmaceutical industry is pulling out all stops to find potential treatments and vaccines for the global pandemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are now more than 70 potential vaccines under development, with three already in clinical trials.

The most advanced clinical trial is CanSino’s Adenovirus Type 5 Vector, Ad5-nCoV, which has been moved into Phase II. Ad5-nCoV is a genetic engineered vaccine candidate with the replication-defective adenovirus type 5 as the vector to express SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which intends to be used to prevent the disease caused by the novel coronavirus infection, the company said in its filing. Ad5-nCoV is built upon CanSino BIO’s adenovirus-based viral vector vaccine technology platform, which has also been successfully applied to develop the globally innovative vaccine against Ebola virus infection. 

Moderna has also begun human testing of mRNA-1273, its mRNA vaccine that encodes for a prefusion stabilized form of the Spike (S) protein found on COVID-19. Inovio also launched a Phase I trial for its vaccine candidate earlier this month. INO-4800 is a DNA vaccine candidate designed to prevent COVID-19 infection. Preclinical data showed promising immune response results across multiple animal models, the company said.

Those three candidates are the farthest along in development, but as the WHO data notes, multiple companies, as well as university research centers, are focused on developing a vaccine. Best estimates suggest that a vaccine will take up to 18 months to develop and launch, which puts earliest availability in early to mid-2021.

Earlier today, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi announced a collaboration to develop a vaccine candidate. The two companies will combine their technologies to develop an adjuvanted vaccine. Sanofi will use its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology and GSK will boost the antigen with its pandemic adjuvant technology. In addition to that partnership, both companies have other vaccine programs in development for COVID-19. Sanofi teamed up with Translate Bio to develop a novel messenger RNA vaccine against the virus and GSK forged an agreement with China’s Innovax to provide its vaccine adjuvant technology in support of a potential vaccine against the pandemic.

Also this morning, NantKwest and ImmunityBio announced they are in active discussions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for vaccines and therapeutics to combat COVID-19. The companies aim to harness ImmunityBio’s second-generation adenovirus vaccine platform.

Other vaccine programs include an mRNA candidate under development by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Those two companies hope to enter the clinic this month. At the end of March, life sciences giant Johnson & Johnson announced it had discovered a vaccine candidate for COVID-19 and plans to begin human testing in September. Johnson & Johnson began developing a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in January, as soon as the sequencing became available.

Earlier this month, the University of Pittsburgh reported that its vaccine candidate is producing antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 at quantities thought to be sufficient for neutralizing the virus. The researchers had already worked on vaccine development for SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014, both viruses from the same family that causes COVID-19. 

Those are just a few of the more than 70 candidates under development. And, it’s likely that more companies and universities will add additional assets as time goes on.


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