GeoVax Labs, Inc, a biotechnology company developing immunotherapies and vaccines against cancers and infectious diseases, announced on January 11 that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded the company a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant in support of its development of a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.
The Phase 1 grant, titled, "Preclinical Development of GV-MVA-VLP Vaccines Against COVID-19," will support the ongoing design, construction and preclinical testing of GeoVax's vaccine candidates in preparation for human clinical trials. The efficacy testing will be performed in collaboration with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB).
GeoVax is leveraging its GV-MVA-VLP platform to address the global need for an effective and safe SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Unique among other vaccines under development, the experimental GeoVax candidates are specifically designed to provide a broader and more long-lived level of protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 while avoiding the potential side effects that can limit vaccine utility and acceptance. GeoVax's vaccine candidates will be tested for antigen expression and genetic stability under conditions designed to simulate those in manufacturing, which will demonstrate the likely suitability of each vaccine construct as a candidate for full-scale production and clinical testing.
, commented, "The first generation of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are based on the 'Spike (S)' protein and are designed to induce antibodies that block infection of human cells, an effect referred to as virus neutralization. The GV-MVA-VLP platform provides the opportunity to design and test vaccine candidates that differ significantly through the inclusion of multiple SARS-CoV-2 proteins that are presented to the immune system as virus-like particles (VLPs)," said Mark Newman, PhD, GeoVax's Chief Scientific Officer. "Our goal is to safely increase vaccine potency and efficacy by inducing both neutralizing antibody and cellular immune responses to optimize the level of protection against existing and potential new variants of COVID as well as establish immunological memory to provide multi-year protection. Vaccines using the GV-MVA-VLP platform developed for other pathogens have proven to be efficacious with a single dose, having strong durability which would be a significant advantage for SARS-CoV-2 global vaccination campaigns."
GeoVax anticipates that additional vaccines, such as ours will be necessary against COVID-19, as well as potentially new strains and variants, requiring broader immune response, strong durability, exquisite safety within various cohort populations and minimal refrigeration for distribution and supply throughout the world, according to David Dodd, GeoVax's Chairman & CEO. These attributes represent the focus of the company's overall 'COVID-X' vaccine program (eg, COVID-20, COVID-21, etc).
"We are pleased to receive this Phase 1 SBIR funding award, which will supplement the internal resources allocated to our COVID-19 vaccine program and accelerate our progress toward human clinical trials," Dodd said. "We appreciate and welcome this support from NIH/NIAID, which follows our signing of a Patent and Biological Materials License Agreement providing GeoVax with access to key NIAID patent rights, and which provides GeoVax with nonexclusive rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize our COVID-19 vaccine. While we continue to advance our COVID-19 vaccine program, we remain in discussions and negotiations related to additional funding support that will further accelerate our progress into clinical testing and supply chain preparation."