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COVID-19 Vaccine Updates: J&J Identifies Lead Candidate, IMV Eyes Clinical Testing In Summer, Altimmune Partners With University Of Alabama

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Two coronavirus vaccine candidates are in the clinics and 42 more are in preclinical studies, according to updated data provided by the World Health Organization on March 20.

Three biopharma companies issued updates Monday on their developmental efforts for vaccines to combat the deadly virus, which has so far killed more than 35,000 people and infected about 735,000 more, according to Johns Hopkins University

IMV On Track For Summer Start

Canadian pharma Imv Inc (NASDAQ: IMV), which announced March 18 its intention to develop a DPX-based vaccine candidate for the new coronavirus, said it has initiated discussions with Health Canada to prepare for a clinical trial application. 

Using the genomic and proteomic sequences of the novel coronavirus, the company said it identified several hundred epitopes and shortlisted 23 based on their biological relevance to the virus and potential to generate neutralizing antibodies. 

IMV said it has begun manufacturing peptide candidates targeting these epitopes, and said it is in talks with suppliers and contract manufacturers to prepare for the cGMP batch required to support a clinical study.

The company has finalized the design of a planned Phase 1 study in 48 healthy subjects and identified clinical sites in Nova Scotia and Quebec, according to a press release. 

IMV said it is scheduled to meet with regulators in the week of April 20, with a goal of beginning clinical testing in summer 2020. It also said it has submitted several grant applications in Canada to help support the program.

"We remain committed to serving the unmet needs of patients, both through our efforts to potentially develop a prophylactic vaccine to curb this novel coronavirus and across our ongoing clinical studies with DPX-Survivac in advanced-stage cancer patients," CEO Frederic Ors said in a statement. 

See also: Novavax Shares Rally On Flu Vaccine Study Results: What You Need To Know

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Altimmune To Work With University of Alabama On Intranasal Vaccine

Altimmune Inc (NASDAQ: ALT) said it has launched a collaboration with the University of Alabama at Birmingham for developing a single-dose, intranasal COVID-19 vaccine, AdCOVID.

The company said it is preparing for immunogenicity studies and manufacturing of Phase 1 trial material. Altimmune said it will work with university investigators on preclinical animal studies and characterization of vaccine immunogenicity. The company is planning a Phase 1 study in the third quarter.

J&J Plans Clinical Testing By September, Commits Over $1B In Funding

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) said it has selected a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate from constructs it has been working on since January.

The company said that, through a new partnership with the BARDA, it has committed more than $1 billion to co-fund vaccine research, development and clinical testing.

Separately, the company and BARDA have provided additional funding to enable expansion of their ongoing work to identify potential treatments for the virus.

Additionally, J&J said it is expanding its global manufacturing capacity to assist in the rapid production of a vaccine and supply of more than 1 billion doses of a safe and effective vaccine globally.

J&J said it is "committed to bringing an affordable vaccine to the public on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use."

J&J expects to initiate human clinical studies at the latest by September 2020 and make available the first batch of a vaccine for emergency use authorization in early 2021.

At the time of publication Monday: 

  • Altimmune shares were rising 2.1% to $2.91. 

  • IMV was gaining 6.06% to $1.75.

  • J&J shares were adding 5.44% to $129.86.

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