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CEPI Grant, Government Aid Drive Coronavirus Focused Biotechs

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With infection from the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV spreading fast in China, government and other global organizations are coming ahead to develop an antidote. In a move to develop rapid response platforms, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (“CEPI”) announced funding of three programs to develop a new vaccine for 2019-nCoV. These programs will leverage CEPI’s previous expertise of developing vaccine for middle-east respiratory syndrome (“MERS”), caused by another type of coronavirus, MERS-CoV.

The coronavirus outbreak in China has so far infected 557 people, leaving 17 dead, per a report by the World Health Organization (“WHO”) on Jan 22. Meanwhile, WHO also stated that the outbreak has yet not become a global health emergency. However, it warned that the situation in China is very high-risk and the global situation is high-risk.

Funded Programs

Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations is funding two development programs to be conducted by its existing partners, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (INO - Free Report) and the University of Queensland, Australia that have previously developed vaccines for MERS. In addition, CEPI announced a new partnership with Moderna, Inc. (MRNA - Free Report) and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for developing a 2019-nCoV vaccine. These programs are being undertaken by CEPI to accelerate the development process for nCoV-2019 vaccine candidates to advance into clinical testing. CEPI is also coordinating with WHO to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Inovio received a grant of up to $9 million from CEPI for pre-clinical and phase I development of a 2019-nCoV vaccine named INO-4800. Shares of the company were up almost 12% on Jan 23, following the announcement.

Moderna stated on Jan 21 that it is working with NIAID to develop a 2019-nCoV vaccine. CEPI’s expertise in coronavirus will likely speed up the Moderna’s development process. The stock was up nearly 2.5% in pre-market trading on Jan 24.

While Moderna sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Inovio carries a Zacks Rank of 3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

A partnership between several public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organizations led to the formation of CEPI, which is committed to faster development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and supply of such vaccines in the event of an outbreak, globally. It is building a vaccine platform technology, which can be modified to develop a vaccine depending on the pathogen causing the infection, to accelerate the development process

Conclusion

With the situation in China getting worse and the risk of global coronavirus outbreak rising, faster development of vaccines is the need of the hour. Apart from CEPI funded biotechs, several others have expressed interest in developing a vaccine for 2019-nCoV.

Novavax, Inc. (NVAX - Free Report) has started developing a 2019-nCoV vaccine. Vir Biotechnology (VIR - Free Report) has also expressed interest in developing a treatment for the newly found coronavirus using its monoclonal antibody technology. Several other companies developing vaccines for flu and respiratory syndromes, including NanoViricides, Cerus Corporation and Merck, may also start developing vaccines for the coronavirus.

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