Clover raises $230M as COVID-19 vaccine nears phase 3, multivariant prospect gets going

Clover Biopharmaceuticals CEO Joshua Liang (Clover Biopharmaceuticals)

Clover Biopharmaceuticals has raised $230 million to take a COVID-19 vaccine candidate into a phase 2/3 clinical trial. The series C positions the Chinese biotech to validate the efficacy of its vaccine and gear up to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses this year.

Last month, Clover researchers published data from a phase 1 clinical trial of their COVID-19 prospect in The Lancet. The paper featured safety, tolerability and immunogenicity data on two versions of the protein-based vaccine, one of which used GlaxoSmithKline’s AS03 adjuvant and the other of which used Dynavax’s CpG 1018 adjuvant. 

Now, with a phase 2/3 trial of the CpG 1018 adjuvanted candidate set to start by the midpoint of the year, Clover has raised a series C round to support the COVID-19 program and the rest of its pipeline. 

GL Ventures and Temasek co-led the round with assists from Oceanpine Capital, OrbiMed and Delos Capital. Clover said the round brings the total raised over the past 12 months to more than $400 million. Last year, GL made a $24 million series B-2 investment, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations committed up to $328 million to the COVID-19 vaccine program. 

Armed with the money, Clover is preparing to run a phase 2/3 clinical trial and make hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine. Clover could make hundreds of millions of doses a year available through the COVAX initiative set up to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The current lead candidate, which at one point was due to enter phase 2/3 late last year, is designed to protect against the coronavirus that spread out of Wuhan, China, early in 2020. Since then, the virus has mutated, creating variants that partly evade the immunity conferred by existing vaccines. Data on other vaccines suggest Clover’s candidate is likely to be less effective against some variants. 

Clover is preparing for that eventuality by working on a multivalent COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine could provide protection against multiple coronavirus variants. Clover’s vaccine platform—which, like those used by Novavax and Sanofi, is based on adjuvanted proteins—may be better suited to safely protecting against multiple variants than other technologies such as mRNA and viral vectors are. 

Work on the original and follow-up COVID-19 vaccines is proceeding in parallel to other projects. Clover is working on rabies and influenza vaccines as well as a TRAIL-Trimer fusion protein targeting intracavitary malignancies.