Novavax vaccine candidate produces immune response against deadly virus

Study by University of Maryland School of Medicine highlights potential effective means for preventing MERS-CoV

An investigational vaccine candidate developed by Novavax against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) blocked infection in laboratory studies carried out by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the US.

A Novavax vaccine candidate against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) developed by Novavax on a similar platform also inhibited virus infection.

The findings are reported in an article published in the journal Vaccine.

Historically, vaccine strategies for emerging pathogens have been limited due to the sudden nature in which the virus first appears and delayed by the protracted traditional vaccine development process.

The research team used a novel and rapid method to develop vaccines against previously unknown viruses. The experimental vaccines, which were tested with Novavax' proprietary adjuvant Matrix-M, induced immune responses that prevented viruses from infecting cells.

'Our protein nanoparticle vaccine technology is proving to have the potential to respond rapidly to emerging viruses such as MERS-CoV and certain potential pandemic influenza strains,' said Gale Smith, Vice President of Vaccine Development at Novavax. 'Novavax will continue to evaluate this technology to produce highly immunogenic nanoparticles for coronavirus, influenza, and other human disease pathogens.'

The research team used a novel and rapid method to develop vaccines against previously unknown viruses

Matthew Frieman, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the emergence of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV demonstrates how coronaviruses can spill over from animals into humans at any time.

'Despite efforts to create a vaccine against SARS-CoV, no vaccine candidate has, to date, been successfully licensed for use,' he said. 'We have demonstrated that this novel method rapidly creates SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV vaccines that induce neutralising antibodies in mice.'

MERS-CoV, first identified in 2012, is one of a family of viruses with the potential to rapidly spread from a benign infection of animals to cause severe disease in humans. In 2003, a previously unknown coronavirus called SARS-CoV caused an outbreak that infected more than 8,000 individuals and killed 775.

According to the World Health Organidation, the MERS-CoV thus far has resulted in 107 deaths out of 345 infections. Both diseases were marked by a jump from animals to people and while SARS-CoV spread more quickly in humans, MERS-CoV is proving to be more deadly.

Companies