Codiak gets $2.5M from CEPI to forge way out of pandemic, prep for disease X

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is dishing out up to $2.5 million to Codiak BioSciences to develop vaccines for COVID-19 and the mystery disease X that could strike next. 

The allocation is from CEPI's $200 million program aimed at developing vaccines that more broadly protect against COVID-19 and other betacoronaviruses. Codiak will use the seed funding to develop its pan-betacoronavirus vaccine candidate and a shot for SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech's engEx platform leverages engineered exosomes, which have long been thought of as the cell’s garbage removal system, carrying payloads like proteins or RNAs from one cell to another. Codiak’s pan-betacoronavirus vaccine construct, dubbed exoVACC, uses this system to develop antigens and adjuvants to illicit immune responses.

In April, the biotech unveiled preclinical data showing that the vaccine candidate stimulates a neutralizing antibody response against multiple COVID-19 variants and can illicit antigen-specific T-cell responses against all of the COVID-19 strains classified as variants of concern at the time of the tests. The biotech plans to use the $2.5 million to further validate the program in preclinical studies.

“It’s our hope these and future alliances yield a vaccine approach that can forge a path out of the current coronavirus pandemic, while also buttressing future outbreaks,” Sriram Sathyanarayanan, Ph.D., Codiak’s chief scientific officer, said in a July 5 release.

If successful, Codiak’s approach could also potentially be used to combat other pathogens in CEPI’s portfolio, such as “disease X”—unknown pathogens with pandemic potential that haven’t emerged yet. 

Based out of Norway, CEPI launched in 2017 to create vaccines to protect against future epidemics. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation started multiple programs to develop vaccines, including its $200 million initiative that aims to protect against SARS-CoV-2 and betacoronaviruses.

Up to $30 million of the program’s money will go to the California Institute of Technology’s all-in-one COVID-19 vaccine candidate for current and future COVID-19 variants and other similar betacoronaviruses, the foundation also announced July 5. Developed by Caltech and the University of Oxford in England, the candidate uses microbes engineered by Scottish biotech Ingenza and includes manufacturing efforts by CPI, a U.K.-based tech innovation organization.  

In February, CEPI doled out $12.5 million to the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in India and Panacea Biotec, a pharmaceutical company and vaccine manufacturer also based in India, to further the development of multi-epitope, nanoparticle-based vaccine candidates and related manufacturing processes.   

The first of the $200 million was allocated last November to MigVax in Israel and the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Canada. The two organizations are working to establish proof of concept for new COVID-19 vaccines to use in low- and middle-income countries.

All efforts are part of CEPI’s $3.5 billion investment strategy to improve the global response to infectious disease pandemics and epidemics. The foundation has the lofty goal of cutting down vaccine development timelines to 100 days, a move CEPI thinks would improve the world’s chances against the next disease X.