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Gritstone (GRTS) Inks Deal With CEPI for Coronavirus Vaccine

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Gritstone bio, Inc. (GRTS - Free Report) announced that it has entered into a funding agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (“CEPI”) for up to $20.6 million to advance the development of its COVID-19 vaccine program, CORAL, with an initial focus in South Africa.

Shares of Gritstone were up 8.5% on Tuesday following announcement of the news. In fact, the stock has skyrocketed 120.3% so far this year against the industry’s decrease of 1%.

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Per the agreement, CEPI will providing funding for the multi-arm phase I study which will evaluate Gritstone’s second-generation self-amplifying mRNA (“SAM”) vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in naïve, convalescent as well as HIV+ patients. The CEPI funding will also support pre-clinical studies, scale-up, and formulation development for a stabler drug product. The study is expected to begin by the end of this year.

Per the company, the SAM vaccine has the potential to provide both prolonged protection and potency against spike mutants and durable immunity against variants of COVID-19. With the CORAL phase I program, Gritstone is looking to establish optimal dosing and antigenic content in young individuals, the elderly, the previously vaccinated and the immuno-compromised population, including people living with HIV.

Through this agreement with CEPI, Gritstone has agreed that if the vaccine candidate is proven to be safe and effective, it will be made available to the COVAX Facility for procurement and allocation to several countries across the world.

We note that several companies have already come up with their respective vaccines for fighting the COVID-19 virus.

Pfizer/BioNTech’s (BNTX - Free Report) mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, is approved for emergency/temporary/conditional use in several countries. Another mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, developed by Moderna, Inc. (MRNA - Free Report) , has also been approved for emergency/temporary use in various countries. J&J’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is also available in the United States for emergency use.

AstraZeneca’s (AZN - Free Report) adenovirus-based coronavirus vaccine (called Vaxzevria in EU) is approved for emergency use in several countries, including India. The vaccine is not available in the United States.

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Gritstone currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.