CEPI receives funding for development of ‘next generation' of COVID-19 vaccine candidates


CEPI will receive a grant of up to $20m from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines to include candidates that are differentiated from those already in advanced development. The world is likely to be living with COVID-19 for many years to come, so the grant will accelerate the development of the next generation of vaccines (‘Wave 2 vaccines') that could address gaps in the current global vaccine development landscape, helping to ensure vaccines are available in the future that are easier to deliver and address the specific needs of a diverse range of populations and settings.

Significant progress has already been made in developing vaccines against COVID-19, with 47 candidates in clinical trials only 11 months after the virus emerged. CEPI has built a diverse portfolio of nine vaccine candidates, with the aim of developing three safe and effective vaccines which can be manufactured at scale and made globally accessible through COVAX to help end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021. In parallel with this work, the new grant — alongside future donor commitments - will allow CEPI to advance the critical next stage of vaccine R&D by establishing the COVID-19 Vaccine Portfolio for Wave 2 vaccine candidates (‘the Wave 2 Portfolio'), which aims to optimize the vaccines that are available in the longer term.

Wave 2 vaccines are candidates in early stages of development that offer scientific, technical or manufacturing differentiation compared to candidates currently in advanced development. They will be selected based on characteristics that could make them particularly suitable for use in specific target populations — such as older or immune-compromised individuals, or pregnant women — and also in low-resource settings where logistical challenges can make the use of certain vaccine approaches more challenging. The selection criteria include potential to protect from COVID-19 after a single vaccine dose, temperature stability, manufacturing scalability, improved or differentiated immune response, and the use of different antigens.

The Gates Foundation grant provides the initial funding needed to move three to six additional candidates through Phase 1/2 clinical testing in 2021, as well as supporting other aspects of development, including production of clinical trial material, vaccine process development and planning for large-scale production. Further development of the vaccines beyond Phase 1/2 will require additional funding. The vaccines to be supported by this supplemental funding will be selected by the end of 2020, with a goal of producing one billion doses of vaccine from candidates in the Wave 2 Portfolio by the end of 2022.

Ending this pandemic will require a range of vaccines that are optimized for use in different populations and settings, so it's crucial that we take stock of the current vaccines in development and begin work now to fill in any potential gaps. The funding from our partners at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help us to stay one step ahead of the virus by supporting investments in the ‘next generation' of vaccine candidates with different characteristics to those already in development, giving the world additional options to control the virus in the future.

The scientific community has made tremendous progress in developing COVID-19 vaccines, and I am hopeful that the first vaccines will soon be approved for use against COVID-19, allowing us to begin protecting our health workers and others most at risk from the virus. But we must maintain the momentum of vaccine R&D, so CEPI urgently needs an additional $800m to fund the most promising vaccines in our current portfolio through to licensure.

Dr. Richard HatchettChief Executive Officer, CEPI

The world has seen enormous progress on the development of vaccines, with the promise of turning the tide towards recovery. But there's a long road ahead and innovation is an essential part of the equation for ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Equally important is ensuring organizations like CEPI and Gavi have the funding necessary to develop and deliver these tools via COVAX. We are pleased that these funds will allow CEPI to kick-start the development of additional vaccine candidates that address the needs of lower-income countries.

Mark SuzmanCEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CEPI, alongside Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization, co-leads the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator — known as COVAX — which is working to accelerate research and development for promising vaccine candidates, manufacture doses at scale, and ensure rapid global access. Vaccine candidates in the Wave 2 Portfolio will be subject to global access commitments which will require vaccine output funded by CEPI's investment to be made available for procurement and allocation through COVAX.

CEPI's COVID-19 vaccine programme to date

Built on the principles of speed, scale and equitable access, CEPI is already supporting the research and development of a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates based on a range of vaccine approaches. Of the nine vaccine candidates currently in the CEPI portfolio — the world's largest - eight have entered clinical trials out of 47 globally.

CEPI has raised US$1.3bn in support of COVID-19 vaccine research and development, but urgently needs $800m in additional funds to achieve its aim of developing three safe and effective vaccines that can be manufactured at scale and made globally available through COVAX by the end of 2021. These funds are vital for CEPI to progress the most promising vaccine candidates in the current portfolio through crucial late-stage clinical trials to prove their safety and efficacy, and ultimately to licensure.

How to apply

Vaccine developers wishing to apply for funding as part of the Wave 2 Portfolio can do so through a Call for Proposals on the CEPI website, open until 19 November 2020.