Epidemic Coalition Raises $1.5-billion at Summit to Prepare for ‘Disease X’
CEPI Chairpseron Jane Halton

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) raised over $1.5 billion to develop vaccines against emerging diseases in as little as 100 days over the past two days at a pandemic preparedness summit co-hosted by the UK government.

CEPI’s total budgetary ask is for $3.5 billion to implement its five-year plan to prepare and protect against “Disease X”, the unknown pathogen that will cause the next pandemic.

It has developed a roadmap to compress vaccine development to 100 days, develop a broadly protective vaccine against COVID-19 and other Betacoronaviruses, and create a “library” of vaccine candidates for use against known and unknown pathogens. 

As part of this, CEPI announced on Tuesday that it will partner with UK-based DIOSynVax – a biotech company linked to the University of Cambridge that specialises in the development of broadly protective, multi-virus vaccine antigen payloads (VAPs).

Betacoronavirus vaccine candidate

DIOSynVax will assist to develop a vaccine candidate based upon “intelligent computational design” against existing and future variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other major sub-genera of Betacoronaviruses including those that cause SARS and MERS.

The idea of a 100-day mission came from a commitment made by leaders at the G7 meeting in June last year to “support science in a mission to shorten the cycle for the development of safe and effective vaccines, treatments and tests from 300 to 100 days”.

“CEPI’s five-year strategy aims to make the development of vaccines against emerging pathogens within 100 days a reality, because the quicker a safe, effective and globally accessible vaccine is developed and deployed, the quicker an incipient pandemic can be contained and controlled,” the organisation said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Achieving the 100 Day Mission, through CEPI’s innovative programme of access-focused R&D, would give the world a fighting chance of defusing the threat of future pathogens with pandemic potential.”

International pandemic accord

Addressing the summit in support of CEPI, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that CEPI had to be part of the new “enhanced global health architecture for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response”.

Negotiations on an international pandemic accord were beginning in order “to establish the rules of the road for a more cohesive and harmonised global response to future epidemics and pandemics – including the equitable sharing of countermeasures”, he added.

Dr Tedros said that the pandemic has taught the world “the incredible power of surveillance, genomics, diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics” – but it had also exposed gaps and weaknesses in the global ecosystem.

“WHO is working with our Member States and partners to fill some of those gaps, including through the new WHO Hub for Epidemic and Pandemic Intelligence in Berlin, the WHO BioHub System for sharing pathogens in Geneva, and the soon-to-be-launched Global Genomics Surveillance strategy for pathogens with pandemic and epidemic potential,” said Tedros.

“But it’s clear that we also need to strengthen efforts to develop, evaluate and distribute vaccines, tests and treatments as rapidly and equitably as possible when a new pathogen emerges,” he added.

Over the past two days, health ministers, pharmaceutical company executives and other partners met in London and made a number of pledges to protect the world against future threats.

The UK Government has committed to delivering a research and development network, accessible to industry, to speed up the development and delivery of novel vaccines. 

Meanwhile,  associations representing vaccine manufacturers, as well as the broader biotech and biopharmaceutical industry and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) committed to investing in R&D aimed at “target pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential and to build a portfolio of promising candidate vaccines, treatments and technologies”. 

Commitment to speed

They also committed to speeding up vaccine manufacturing and capacity, as well as clinical trials.

“The faster an effective vaccine is developed and deployed, the faster an incipient pandemic can be contained and controlled,” according to CEPI.

“In the case of COVID-19, a 100-day timeline would have seen a vaccine ready to use in mid-April instead of December 2020. This could have saved millions of lives and trillions of dollars. Achieving the 100-day goal would give the world a fighting chance of containing an outbreak before it spreads globally and becomes a pandemic.”

“COVID-19 has taught the global healthcare community hard but important lessons. Let’s use them to make our defences against the next pandemic more nimble, more robust, and – above all – more equitable,” said IFPMA Director General Thomas Cueni.

“We have seen the strength of a strong innovation ecosystem leading to the rapid development of multiple solutions, acting to expand partnerships, knowledge-sharing, and technology transfer in unprecedented ways,” he added, commending CEPI for bringing people across the innovation ecosystem to address COVID-19.

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