Identifying the Significant Differences Among Head-Start Candidates in Race for Coronavirus Vaccine

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 Los Angeles, CA – March 26, 2020 – Biotech Insider – Time is of the essence, as the race for a vaccine to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is underway. While human trials began last week for the first doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, experts from the World Health Organization are realistically preparing the public for a wait of at least a year before widespread deployment of an approved vaccine can occur. Because of the urgency of the matter, every week/month counts in terms of development timelines, so it’s worth examining the differences between five of the first to publicly announce their own vaccine development, namely: Vaxart Inc. (NASDAQ:VXRT), Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA), Altimmune, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALT), Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) and Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX).


Four out of five of these companies were among the quickest to respond within the first month of the outbreak in January, with public announcements of initiating development, and receiving subsequent aid in the form of grants, partnerships and other forms of support.


Among the candidates, it was Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA) getting out ahead of the pack on January 13, 2020 as the first to publicly announce development. Vaxart Inc. (NASDAQ:VXRT) closed out January becoming the first (and so far only) North American developer to work on an oral COVID-19 vaccine.


“We believe an oral vaccine administered using a room temperature-stable tablet may offer enormous logistical advantages in the roll-out of a large vaccination campaign,” said Vaxart CEO Wouter Latour in a press release announcing his company’s agreement to develop and manufacture an oral coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate, with multi-billion-dollar partner, Emergent BioSolutions Inc.


Given the urgent global need for a vaccine to emerge, there are many factors to look at, including how the vaccine will be administered—injection vs oral vs nasal, etc.




If a vaccine is going to be given to the world, it has to be given right. WHO officials have noted that in order to be effective, a vaccine would have to be available to everyone, not just the “haves”.


So far there’s been much fanfare about the developments coming from traditional injected-vaccine developers such as Moderna Inc., Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) and Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX).


However, according to researchers from the University of Texas in Austin, there are several advantages of note for oral administration of vaccines such as the one proposed by Vaxart Inc. (VXRT) over injection.


In step with the requests from the WHO for accessibility, oral vaccines have enormous benefits, especially when dealing with the developing world.


Oral vaccines not only offer greater coverage and accessibility, but also temperature stability, and the ability for populations to self-administer.


In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, getting the vaccine to nations both rich and poor around the globe is extremely important. By allowing people to take the vaccine orally, this eliminates much of the costs associated with needles.


Less training and mobilization of health care workers would be required, and perhaps even more important is the significant reduction in biohazardous waste. When addressing a global population of over 7 billion people, the elimination of needles from the equation is possibly one of the most incredible factors being overlooked.


Under the terms of the agreement between Vaxart Inc. (VXRT) and Emergent BioSolutions Inc. (EBS) development services will begin immediately.


Upon Vaxart’s election, Emergent is expected to produce a bulk cGMP vaccine allowing Vaxart to initiate a Phase 1 clinical study early in the second half of 2020.


“Emergent is pleased to deploy our nimble CDMO expertise to support fellow innovators, like Vaxart, and advance an experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” said Syed T. Husain, senior vice president and CDMO business unit head at Emergent BioSolutions in the accompanying press release. “We look forward to applying our broad molecule-to-market services, including our ability to work with a multitude of delivery systems, execute under expedited timelines, and meet Vaxart’s potential need for future scalability and large-scale capacity for commercial quantities.”


Altimmune, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALT) is answering the call by developing a vaccine that gets sprayed into patients’ noses, not injected into their arms. Back in February, the company announced it had completed the design and prototyping of a vaccine against COVID-19, and is now in the process of advancing it toward animal testing and manufacturing for human trials.




Being out first, Moderna Inc.  is the likely the top candidate to deliver a vaccine first. The company’s CEO has said that health care workers could get a COVID-19 vaccine by fall. They’re developing their vaccine with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and is currently running a Phase 1 study with 45 healthy adults.


Inovio Pharmaceuticals  is also in the process of fast-tracking human trials, as the company announced it was working on 1 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate. Inovio is using DNA biotechnology, cutting edge science that has yet to produce a marketable vaccine.


Novavax, Inc.  announced in late February that it had already started animal testing of coronavirus candidates. Later in March, the company announced it had secured an agreement with Emergent BioSolutions Inc. —the same company paired up with Vaxart Inc.  for an oral vaccine.


Both Vaxart Inc. (VXRT) and Altimmune, Inc. (ALT) represent the leading two developers with non-injection vaccine. At this point, Vaxart is ahead in the timeline, with a partner secured and clinical trials announced later this year.


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