New partnerships to support Lancaster COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Lancaster University molecular virologist Dr Muhammad Munir

A pioneering needleless COVID-19 vaccine developed at Lancaster University is growing closer to reality after partnerships were signed with companies in South America and Asia to produce vital doses of the new vaccine for developing countries and remote regions.

The University has joined forces with British life sciences company ViraCorp to further develop and commercialise the dual antigen-carrying intranasal vaccine through its subsidiary ViraVac. It is hoped the vaccine will have a major impact in protecting communities with dangerously low vaccination levels.

The vaccine, which is the brainchild of renowned Lancaster University molecular virologist Dr Muhammad Munir, is currently going through a rigorous testing phase - but preparations are being put in place to begin mass production as soon as it is given the green light.

The new partnerships with Peruvian pharmaceutical firm FARVET SAC and Bangladesh’s Incepta Vaccine Ltd will help ensure production capacity is in place at the appropriate time.

Dr Munir said: “These partnerships with FARVET and Incepta are critical milestones in further developing our next generation COVID-19 vaccine, which offers protections and blocks transmission independent of the nature of SARS-COV-2 variants.

“Once we have achieved the relevant permissions, we’ll begin to bring our vaccine to areas of the world suffering from low vaccination rates, which will benefit from the stability, effectiveness and low cost of production.”

The new vaccine’s novel nasal delivery method takes away some of the onerous - and expensive – logistical demands of a mass vaccination drive. It makes the vaccine more easily transportable and means it does not require trained medical personnel to administer doses.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is campaigning for international vaccine equity and recognises the need to increase vaccination levels in developing countries if COVID-19 is to be brought under control.

Jon Chadwick, CEO of ViraCorp, said: “By combining our resources, we will ensure the highest standard of quality in our work to make vaccines more available, both logistically and financially. We look forward to working together with these industry experts towards our goal of improving global health outcomes.”

Incepta Vaccine Ltd was established in 2011 to provide high-quality vaccines to the population in Bangladesh, and across the globe, at an affordable price. It is the first human vaccine manufacturing company in Bangladesh with a state-of-art facility which is fully-compliant with WHO manufacturing requirements. The facility has a yearly production capacity of 180 million single doses, or one billion doses in multi-dose format.

Dr Abdul Muktadir, Chairman and Managing Director of Incepta Vaccine Ltd, said: “Incepta always explores to acquire, develop and optimise new vaccine processes as well as production technologies. This collaboration will be a milestone to provide a new delivery system making it a very attractive solution for vaccination in developing countries like ours, alongside remote communities.”

FARVET SAC is a Peruvian pharmaceutical firm with more than 30 years of experience in researching and developing veterinary vaccines from their laboratories in Chincha, Peru.

Manolo Fernández, CEO of FARVET SAC, said: “FARVET is always looking to innovate and develop new technologies, which will help to reduce the threats posed by respiratory diseases. We are excited to collaborate with ViraVac, Incepta, and Lancaster University to bring this intranasal vaccine through clinical trials and support the efficient control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For our company, conducting clinical trials in Peru fills us with a great sense of pride and we are eager to begin working to deliver this game-changing technology in the near future.”

On top of his work on vaccine development, Dr Munir is a lecturer and research academic at Lancaster University - and Chief Scientific Officer for ViraCorp.

ViraCorp and its subsidiaries are a group of biomedical research and development companies, working to improve health outcomes across the globe.

Specifically focusing on protecting and preventing the disastrous humanitarian and economic impacts of viral outbreaks, pandemics and endemics, ViraCorp is taking an innovative and disruptive approach to developing vital viral defence products.

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