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Emergent (EBS) Initiates Study on Lassa Virus Vaccine Candidate

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Emergent BioSolutions (EBS - Free Report) announced the dosing of the first patient in a phase I study evaluating the company’s Lassa virus vaccine candidate, EBS-LASV, for the prevention of the disease caused by Lassa virus infection.

Lassa Virus is a single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the Arenaviridae virus family, prevalent mainly in the West African region. It causes acute viral hemorrhagic illness, known as Lassa fever, where the virus affects several organs, including the liver, kidneys and spleen. Almost 80% of the people infected with the disease show no symptoms.

Presently, there are no approved vaccines or therapeutics for the disease.

The phase I study, co-funded by Emergent and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), is a randomized placebo-controlled, dose-escalation study evaluating the safety, efficacy and immunogenicity of EBS-LASV in approximately 36 adults.

Emergent will be providing the manufacturing and technical support for developing the vaccine.

Back in 2018, CEPI had entered into a deal worth up to $36 million with Emergent BioSolutions and Profectus BioSciences to advance the development of a monovalent vaccine against Lassa fever.

Per the deal, CEPI agreed to provide funding of $4.3 million to support the study’s first phase, with the option to invest the remaining funds over five years as the vaccine development progresses.

Shares of Emergent BioSolutions have declined 48.7% in the year-to-date period, compared to the industry’s decline of 15.1%.


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Apart from the Lassa vaccine candidate, Emergent has several important products in its portfolio that the government mainly procures for medical countermeasures.

Recently Emergent collaborated with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to expand the availability of a human monoclonal antibody, Ebanga (Ansuvimab-zykl), provided with a single IV infusion to patients for the treatment of Ebola. Ebanga received FDA approval for the treatment of Ebola in December 2020.

Emergent is also awaiting an FDA-approval for its new anthrax vaccine, AV7909, which is expected in April 2023.

In the Lassa research and development field, there has been a series of noteworthy progresses.

In 2018, CEPI also collaborated with Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO - Free Report) to continue with the research and development of a Lassa vaccine.

Per the deal, Inovio received $56 million from CEPI to advance the studies of its vaccine candidates against Lassa fever and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Inovio announced the completion of enrolling patients in a phase Ib clinical study for its DNA vaccine candidate INO-4500, for treatment of Lassa Fever, in September 2021.

Per the deal, Inovio and CEPI intend to stockpile the vaccines for emergency use after the successful completion of the phase II studies of these candidates.

In 2019, Themis Biosciences, now owned by Merck & Co. (MRK - Free Report) , initiated a phase I study with Themis’ MV0-LASV Lassa fever vaccine candidate in collaboration with CEPI.

Like the aforementioned collaborations, CEPI will be funding the vaccine’s development up to the end of the phase II study.

Merck acquired Themis in 2020, adding to the former’s portfolio a broad pipeline of the latter’s vaccine candidates and immune-modulatory therapies.


Zacks Rank and Stocks to Consider

Emergent currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

A better-ranked stock in the same sector is Pliant Therapeutics (PLRX - Free Report) , carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 (Strong Buy) Rank stocks here.

Pliant Therapeutics’ loss per share estimates for 2022 have narrowed from $3.01 to $3.20 in the past 30 days. The same for 2023 has narrowed from $3.55 to $3.29 in the same time frame.

Earnings of Pliant beat estimates in two of the trailing four quarters, was in line in one and missed the same on the remaining occasion. The average earnings surprise for PLRX is 0.90%.

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