The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has announced a collaboration with Profectus BioSciences, Inc. and Emergent BioSolutions, Inc. focused on advancing the development and manufacture of a vaccine against the Lassa virus, which infects an estimated one hundred thousand to three hundred thousand people annually.
Through the partnership, CEPI will provide Profectus with $4.3 million for the first phase of a program to advance development of its Lassa virus vaccine, with an option to invest up to $36 million over five years, including procurement of the vaccine for stockpiling purposes. Emergent will provide technical and manufacturing support for the program. Through a separate agreement with Profectus, Emergent has an exclusive option to license and assume control of development activities for the vaccine. In addition, the global nonprofit organization PATH will collaborate on clinical trials with the consortium under a separate agreement. In May, CEPI entered a similar collaboration for the development of a Nipah virus vaccine.
The Lassa virus infection typically is spread via contact with food or household items that have been contaminated with waste from Mastomys rats and can cause an acute viral hemorrhagic illness known as Lassa fever. One in five infections results in severe disease that affects the liver, spleen, and kidneys. There is currently no approved vaccine against the virus, which is endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
"With four hundred and seventy-two confirmed cases to date and a hundred and twenty-one deaths, 2018 has seen Nigeria battle its largest documented outbreak of Lassa virus on record," said CEPI chief executive Richard Hatchett. "Lassa fever continues to be a threat to public health in many parts of West Africa and has clearly demonstrated its potential to cause severe epidemics. In view of its epidemic potential, the World Health Organization has identified Lassa virus as a priority pathogen that needs further research and development. But despite the urgent need, no approved vaccine against the virus is currently available. CEPI's investment of up to $36 million over a five-year period adds another Lassa vaccine candidate to CEPI's growing portfolio and demonstrates our commitment to addressing this terrible disease."
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