The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is granting $4.3 million to Israel’s MigVax to advance development of Covid-19 vaccines suitable for use in low- and middle-income countries. CEPI, headquartered in Norway, also is funding a similar project at the University of Saskatchewan.

Both projects aim to establish preclinical proof of concept for “variant-proof” vaccines that protect against existing and new SARS-CoV-2 variants. The vaccine platforms may also be applicable for developing vaccines that are protective against a broad range of beta coronaviruses, as well as unknown pathogens with pandemic potential that have yet to emerge.

Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. Photo courtesy of CEPI

“In countries with sufficient access to them, vaccines are now breaking the link between Covid-19 infection and severe illness or death, and enabling life to return to something approaching normality,” said CEPI CEO Dr. Richard Hatchett.

As long as the threat of new emerging variants “continues to hang over us all,” Hatchett said, developing globally accessible vaccines that are broadly protective is imperative for global health security.

Established in 2020, MigVax is an affiliate startup of MIGAL Galilee Research Institute, an R&D center of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Ministry of Science and Technology. Early in the pandemic, MigVax set out to modify for humans a well-established coronavirus vaccine for the immunization of poultry.

MigVax CEO David Zigdon said the oral vaccine tablet could help the world return to a “new normal.” This is a “sub-unit” vaccine, containing pieces of coronavirus protein (not live or dead virus) delivered orally to the immune system via a bacterial protein to stimulate antibodies and immune cells against coronavirus in mucosa, blood and cells.

“Oral boosters such as our MigVax-101, which could protect against emerging Covid-19 variants, will help health organizations transition from panic mode to routine, reducing the cost and expanding the reach of their vaccination programs. We will take full advantage of this grant to bring it to market faster and explore the potential use of our vaccine platform against other coronaviruses,” said Zigdon.