The University of Alabama at Birmingham is partnering with biopharmaceutical company Altimmune Inc. for preclinical testing of a potential vaccine to prevent COVID-19 disease.
The testing at UAB will investigate immune responses to the vaccine in mice, a key step before the Maryland-based Altimmune can launch a phase 1 human safety and immunogenicity trial in patients later this year. The vaccine, created by Altimmune and called AdCOVID, is a single-dose vaccine candidate that can be delivered by intranasal spray.
Altimmune, founded through a technology license from UAB in 1997, is hoping for similar success as the company had for an influenza vaccine that uses the same delivery method — a nasal spray that activates mucosal and cellular immune responses.
“We are eager to collaborate with Altimmune on this important project,” said Frances Lund, the Charles H. McCauley Professor and chair for the UAB Department of Microbiology. “The expertise and infrastructure at UAB will be invaluable to the rapid progression of the vaccine into clinical studies.”
Six UAB labs will work together on the collaboration. In addition to Lund’s lab, the other UAB labs involved are led by Troy Randall, professor of medicine in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology; Kevin Harrod, professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine; and three other microbiology labs led by Assistant Professor Rodney King, Associate Professor Todd Green and Professor John Kearney.
“It is critical that the biotechnology industry and academic institutions work together to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and UAB is an ideal partner to support us in this effort,” said Vipin Garg, president and CEO of Altimmune. “UAB has an impressive track record of cutting-edge research in virology and immunology, as well as in the clinical development of vaccines.”
If the AdCOVID vaccine candidate proves to be stable, it may allow for inexpensive and efficient distribution of the millions of doses needed for widespread vaccination of populations.