The partnership will advance VTP-500 from early development to phase 2 clinical trials

Barinthus Biotherapeutics has announced a new partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the University of Oxford to advance a vaccine against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

The partnership aims to fast-track the development of Barinthus Bios’ vaccine candidate, VTP-500.

The collaboration will advance VTP-500 from early development to phase 2 clinical trials and into the development of an investigational ready reserve of 100,000 doses to be rapidly deployed in a clinical trial setting in preparation of a possible outbreak.

Barinthus Bio will receive $34.8m in addition to previous funds that were committed to the University of Oxford and the CEPI will invest up to $47m to develop and stockpile the ready reserve of the MERS vaccine candidate.

MERS is a rare but severe respiratory illness that is caused by the MERS coronavirus, a virus which has been identified and linked to several member states in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

The early-stage development of VTP-500 builds on the same viral vector platform technology as Vaxzevria, the licensed Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine candidate has already completed phase 1 clinical trials in Britain and Saudi Arabia and the University of Oxford continues to conduct a CEPI-funded extension trial in the UK to assess the vaccination of older adults.

Bill Enright, chief executive officer, Barinthus Bio, said: “It is critical to ensure we have the necessary countermeasures in place to protect people around the world from deadly pathogens such as MERS, which have the potential for future outbreaks.”

“With this project, we will both advance scientific understanding of the coronavirus family as a whole and… bolster humanity’s ability to respond to an ever-present epidemic threat,” said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s chief executive officer.

In December last year, the VTP-500 programme received a PRIME designation from the European Medicines Agency to support the development of the vaccine to target an unmet medical need.