CEPI partners with University of Hong Kong to develop COVID-19 vaccine


OSLO, NORWAY, March 18, 2020 — CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, today announced its seventh COVID-19 vaccine project. CEPI will be investing an initial US$620,000 in a partnering agreement with The University of Hong Kong (HKU) to rapidly develop a vaccine candidate against COVID-19. This collaboration brings CEPI's total investment in COVID-19 vaccine R&D to $24.3 million.

CEPI will provide initial funding to HKU to undertake preclinical testing of their vaccine candidate and will consider additional funding for further clinical testing pending results of these preclinical studies.

To date, CEPI has provided initial funding to Curevac Inc., Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., Moderna, Inc., Novavax, Inc., The University of Oxford and The University of Queensland to develop COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

This investment is a result of a recent global call for proposals that CEPI issued in early February, which invited funding applications for proven vaccine technology that could be used to rapidly develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus, and most importantly at scale and with the necessary equitable access provisions.

COVID-19 has now moved into the pandemic phase. It is impacting all of our lives and has shaken the economy. The spread of this virus is unprecedented in modern times. In response, CEPI is intensifying its efforts to develop a vaccine against this virus. We now have 7 COVID-19 vaccines in development, and we plan to initiate more projects in the coming days and weeks.

Be under no illusion - vaccine development is tough. It is complex and costly but CEPI was set-up specifically to overcome these challenges to rapidly develop vaccines against emerging infectious threats like the COVID-19 virus. There are no guarantees of success, but we are working flat out and, if all goes well, hope that a safe and effective vaccine will begin to become available for individuals at greatest risk within the next 12-18 months.

The only way we can vanquish the threat of COVID-19 is to invest in vaccine development now so we can protect the future health of all our societies.

Dr. Richard HatchettChief Executive Officer, CEPI

I'm thankful for the support from CEPI. The University of Hong Kong has outstanding researchers in emerging infectious diseases. I'm hopeful the vaccine being developed in our labs will contribute to the containment of COVID-19.

Professor Xiang ZhangPresident of The University of Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong (live-attenuated influenza vaccine platform)

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong have created a vaccine candidate using a weakened version of the flu virus and have adapted it to express the surface protein of the COVID-19 virus. This approach has previously been used to develop preclinical vaccine candidates against MERS.

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Urgent call for US$2 billion to develop COVID-19 vaccine

On March 6, CEPI issued an urgent call for $2 billion of new funding to enable the organisation to expand the number of COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development and to fund the clinical trials for these candidate vaccines. Our ambition is to have at least 3 vaccine candidates, which could be submitted to regulatory authorities for licensure for general use/use in outbreaks.

To date, the Governments of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, and the UK have committed over $185 million towards our COVID-19 vaccine development efforts. CEPI still urgently needs additional financial contributions to ensure that the vaccine programmes we have initiated can continue to progress at their current pace. We call on other sovereign states, private sector partners, and philanthropies around the world to invest in CEPI's crucial push to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 virus.

Detailed information about our funding needs is available here.


CEPI's commitment to access

As COVID-19 demonstrates, infectious diseases utterly ignore political borders. We cannot prevent or stop a global infectious disease threat without equitable access to globally fair allocation of vaccines. CEPI is wholly committed to equitable access. This commitment drives every aspect of our work and the way we are approaching COVID-19 vaccine development. CEPI's support for equitable access is key to our success as a global health organisation. Equitable access to epidemic vaccines—in the context of an outbreak—means that appropriate vaccines are first available to populations when and where they are needed to end an outbreak or curtail an epidemic, regardless of ability to pay. The COVID-19 vaccines that we are developing will exist for the benefit of all humanity, in rich, middle income, and poor countries alike.


About CEPI

CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. CEPI has reached over US$750 million of its $1 billion funding target. CEPI's priority diseases include Ebola virus, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever and Chikungunya virus. CEPI also invests in platform technologies that can be used for rapid vaccine and immunoprophylactic development against unknown pathogens (ie, Disease X). To date, CEPI has committed to investing nearly $480 million in vaccine and platform development.

Learn more at http://www.cepi.net. Follow us at @CEPIvaccines.


CEPI's work on COVID-19

The rapid global spread and unique epidemiological characteristics of the novel coronavirus are deeply concerning. CEPI has moved with great urgency and in coordination with WHO, who is leading the development of a coordinated international response. So far, we have initiated 7 partnerships to improve our understanding and to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus. The programmes will leverage rapid response platforms already supported by CEPI as well as new partnerships. The aim is to advance COVID-19 vaccine candidates into clinical testing as quickly as possible.

Follow our news page for the latest updates.


About The University of Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong, Asia's Global University, delivers impact through internationalization, innovation and interdisciplinarity. It attracts and nurtures global scholars through excellence in research, teaching and learning, and knowledge exchange. It makes a positive social contribution through global presence, regional significance and engagement with the rest of China.


Media contacts

Rachel Grant, Director of Communications and Advocacy, CEPI

Tel: +44(0)7891249190

Email: [email protected]

Mario Christodoulou, Communications and Advocacy Manager, CEPI

Tel: +44 (0) 7979300222

Email: [email protected]

Jodie Rogers, Communications Officer, CEPI

Tel: +44(0)79 793 57 459

Email: [email protected]

Main image caption and credit: Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID