COVID roundup: Vaccine R&D from Murdoch Children’s, Cobra-Karolinska, Altimmune-Alabama

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A trio of groups announced progress on COVID-19 vaccines Monday, including an Australian trial enrolling volunteers to receive a repurposed tuberculosis vaccine.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute said it plans to enroll 4,170 healthcare workers to receive the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) tuberculosis vaccine as part of its BRACE trial. The goal is to determine whether BCG vaccination protects against COVID-19 or reduces disease severity, and whether it could be used as an early intervention to protect healthcare workers and other high-risk groups during future novel viral outbreaks.

In Europe, the Karolinska Institutet and CDMO Cobra Biologics AB received €3 million ($3.3 million) from Horizon 2020 for the development and Phase I testing of a DNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. The partners plan to start the clinical trial next year at the Karolinska University Hospital

Horizon 2020 has provided a total of €47.5 million in funding across 17 projects.

Also Monday, Altimmune Inc. (NASDAQ:ALT) partnered with the University of Alabama at Birmingham to develop an intranasal COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed AdCOVID.

Altimmune will work with university on preclinical animal studies and to characterize the vaccine’s immunogenicity. The biotech has begun manufacturing materials for the Phase I trial, which it plans to start in 3Q20.

AdCOVID is developed with the same technology as its NasoVAX intranasal influenza vaccine. Altimmune said in a Phase II study, the flu vaccine potently stimulated mucosal and cellular immune responses and induced a strong serum antibody response.

An intranasal vaccine, the company said, could be efficiently and inexpensively distributed. Altimmune shares gained $0.17 to $3.02 on Monday.

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