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COVID-19 vaccine in early phases, 'creates the highest level of antibodies' amid competition: Covaxx Exec

Covaxx Co-Founder and Vice Chairman, Dr. Peter Diamandis, joins Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi, Anjalee Khemlani and Yahoo Finance Correspondent Julia La Roche to discuss COVID-19 vaccine trials that are set to begin human testing this summer, future outlook for the company and more.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Welcome back to "The First Trade." As Moderna is showing some promising vaccine data today, another player is also getting ahead in the vaccine race. Covaxx, a division of United Medical recently announced it plans to enter human clinical trials this summer. Here for a Yahoo Finance exclusive is Covaxx co-founder and vise chairman Dr. Peter Diamandis. Also joining us is Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani and correspondent Julia La Roche. Good to see you all.

Doctor, let me start with you here. Can you give us an update on where your potential vaccine is?

PETER DIAMANDIS: Sure, good morning, everybody. It's a pleasure to be here. So big announcements today. The parent company UBI is one of the companies you've never heard of in the vaccine space, 30 years old, manufacturers today about 500 million vaccine doses per year in a particular disease called foot and mouth and five billion doses over the last decade. So it's very experienced in that, also using the same vaccine platform in human trials against Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, hypercholestremia, a number of number of things.

About 100 days ago, we stood up a division called Covaxx, C-O-V-A-X-X. And Covaxx is focused heads down on the SARS CoV-2 virus. We developed 30 different vaccines, tested them all. We're announcing our science data, our preclinical data today. And what I can say is our lead candidate, one of our top science advisors called it, you know, knock your socks off good.

And when I think about this-- and we can go into this. There's like five things a vaccine needs to do to be successful. First, it has to produce a great titer. You inject the vaccine, it has to create a large number of antibodies. And so right now, from all the science data that we've seen, we're creating the highest level of antibodies.

Second, those antibodies have to neutralize the virus. And we tested this against live virus in China and Taiwan, where the virus was available. And our neutralizing titers again are the highest we've seen against any vaccine platform. The vaccine has to be functional in elderly because this is very much a population of elderly patients. And what we know is this vaccine platform in other diseases, the vaccine platform hits 98% effectiveness in elderly.

It has to be safe. And we've used this platform in humans. Again, very safe. And it has to be manufacturable. And this is one of the biggest questions about a lot of the vaccines out there is can you manufacturer at scale. And so we're super psyched that this platform has, you know, decades of manufacturability. So we're announcing the science data today. And then we're announcing also that we're into human trials.

And our goal is 100 million doses by the start of 2021, a billion doses by the end of 2021. And just that's what we need to get back to normalcy.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Hi, Dr. Diamandis. I want to pick up on that because you just mentioned 100 million doses by 2021. And also you wrote on your website that a vaccine can be invented within days. However, possessing the innovation to bring an effective vaccine to market with billions of doses necessary to meet the needs of society is a radically different proposition.

If we kind of step back because there is that sense of urgency, do you see that is the biggest challenge. And as we get through this pandemic, do you think things will fundamentally change where we will see vaccines in the future start to speed up to address maybe even future pandemics?

PETER DIAMANDIS: Yeah, I think one thing that people need to understand is I think of the COVID-19 pandemic almost as a practice pandemic. I hate to say that. It caught us off guard. It showed us where we have weaknesses in our health care, governmental systems, whatever it might be. But while, you know, my heart goes out to those impacted, this virus does not have the mortality rate that other viruses could have.

So we could, in the future, see other pandemics that have this level of virility, in other words, spreading person to person but a much higher mortality rate. So we do need the ability to have vaccine manufacturing facilities. Our primary facility right now is an FDA approved facility in the Pacific Rim in Taiwan. We are in the midst right now of competing between Florida and Texas to get a much larger facility built here in the United States, which is our primary goal.

But we do need that kind of innate capability. We've been talking about pandemics as an existential threat for humanity for a while now. Just we've never been ready. So I think that this is the time for the government, states, all of us to be investing in making sure that we don't get caught off guard again.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Hey, it's Anjalee here. So looking at-- you said that you're the titers that you've been on the platform is higher than others. Now that we've seen Moderna's phase one, is that still true in comparison? Have you had a chance to look at that data?

PETER DIAMANDIS: Yeah, we have. And it is still true. And listen, at the end of the day, Stephan Bansal is amazing. I know him and his team. And I'm so thankful that they pivoted to COVID-19. There going to be you know in the flu vaccine an influenza vaccine, there are like four or five major players and 20 minor players. There are gonna be a lot of players.

Some of these vaccines are going to work better for elderly. Some are going to have a duration of six months, some two years, four years. So yeah, our data is still, from everything we've seen published, the top data out there in terms of the titers for antibody titers and neutralizing titers. But it's not just that, right? You need to have immunogenicity and neutralizing titers. But it has to be manufacturable, distributable, and to get into patients.

So while others are ahead of us, again, it's not going to be a winner take all marketplace. But our goal is to be the first to actually deliver 100 million doses, which by the way, Anjalee, brings up a point that we're addressing today. Where do those first vaccine doses go? Who gets them, right? So we're also announcing we've created a prioritization committee, an outside group of amazing advisors. We'll be announcing them over the next couple of weeks to help us prioritize where our first 100 million doses go because it's a drop in the bucket compared to large populations.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Absolutely, compared to the demand. And looking at what Operation Warp Speed has done and sort of their announcement from the Department of Health that they are in fact looking for more candidates, are you hoping to get in with the government as well?

PETER DIAMANDIS: Yeah, we're in discussions in the White House in those in those-- we've met with Operation Warp Speed. As with everything, you have to go through the proper process. And first and foremost for us is entering phase 1 and phase 2 human clinical trials. We're gonna be doing that in parallel in Taiwan. Again, we have an FDA-approved facility there in the Pacific Rim.

Also we're announcing a partnership with UNMC, University of Nebraska Medical Center, chancellor Jeffrey Gold there who is our partner. UNMC is the national pandemic center. It's the Center for Global Health Security. Nebraska is known as the place that did the remdesivir trials. It's where the Ebola vaccine is being tested. It's one of the number one locations in the US.

So we've exclusively partnered with them on a blood antibody test that we're distributing in partnership with them. But also to do our phase 1 trials in the US with them in partnership.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, let's leave it there. Covaxx co-founder and vice chairman, Dr. Peter Diamandis. Very important work you doing. Good luck on the road ahead. We look forward to staying in touch.

PETER DIAMANDIS: Thank you. Look forward to sharing the news in the months ahead. Take care.

BRIAN SOZZI: Thank you.