US biotech company Vaxxinity is developing a novel coronavirus vaccine using synthetic proteins, which can also help treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, the media reported.
The company’s vaccine against Covid-19, known as UB-612, is currently in phase 2 trials. It uses the traditional recombinant protein coronavirus vaccine technology, but instead of growing proteins in large vats, Vaxxinity’s proteins are made using chemicals.
These so-called synthetic peptides mimic the spike protein, as other vaccines do, but also other proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes Covid-19, Financial Times reported on Sunday.
The company uses a technique that it is also applying to its “immunotherapeutic” vaccines that “train the body to produce its own antibodies against internal targets of disease”.
“Some of the most successful drugs today are biologics drugs, but they are very expensive and often rather inconvenient to use. Our vision is to disrupt that class of drugs by next-tier, next-generation vaccines,” Mei Mei Hu, chief executive of Vaxxinity, was quoted as saying to FT.
“Commercialising Covid means not only proving one aspect, one modality of our platform for infectious diseases, but also being able to fuel the development of other programmes off that technology platform,” Hu said.
Vaxxinity’s Alzheimer’s drug encourages the body to clear misfolded proteins called amyloid plaques from the brain, because genetic analysis has linked them to symptoms of the disease.
As the phase 2 trial was not large enough to draw statistically valid conclusions, the company is moving on to a larger study, Hu said. Nearly 35 million people suffer from the cognitive illness worldwide, and almost all existing drugs to combat the condition only treat its symptoms.
An injectable monoclonal antibody treatment developed by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson was stopped in 2012 after a small proportion of cases developed inflammation in the brain in clinical trials. Vaxxinity said it has addressed this problem and the product is now safe and consistent, the report said.
UB-612 is comparatively cheap and the vaccine does not need to be kept in deep freeze. Vaxxinity expects to sell the shot primarily to lower-income countries. However, it says that it has also had interest from developed markets, including the EU.
While the shot is not yet approved, Vaxxinity already has confirmed demand for 140 million doses, the report said.