Rapperswil, Switzerland, Tel Aviv, Israel, May 12, 2020, Neovii, the Swiss-based biopharmaceutical company and a member of Israeli-based Neopharm Group, has signed a research and license agreement with Tel Aviv University's (TAU) RAMOT, its technology transfer company, to work in collaboration with a team led by Professor Jonathan Gershoni of the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology to develop a novel and potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccine.
The agreement will grant Neovii the exclusive right to develop and commercialize a novel and recently patented platform technology that has been developed by Professor Gershoni for the rapid discovery of epitope-based vaccines. The collaboration is focused on the development of a first-in-class COVID-19 vaccine that targets the Achilles' heel of the virus by reconstructing the coronavirus's Receptor Binding Motif (RBM), a critical structure of its "spike" protein. The "spike" protein itself is the major surface protein that the virus uses to bind to the cellular receptor that acts as the doorway into the human cell. After the spike protein binds to the human cell receptor, the viral membrane fuses with the human cell membrane, allowing the genome of the virus to enter human cells and begin infection.
"We have been working on coronaviruses for the last 15 years developing a method of reconstructing and reconstituting the RBM structure of the spike protein in SARS-CoV and subsequently in MERS-CoV," explains Professor Gershoni. "The moment the genome of the new virus was published in early January 2020, we began the process of reconstituting the RBM of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and expect to have a reconstituted RBM of the new virus soon. This is the basis for the new vaccine, which could be ready for use within a year to a year and a half."
"The smaller the target and the focus of the attack, the safer and greater the effectiveness of the vaccine," adds Prof. Gershoni. "The virus takes far-reaching measures to hide its RBM from the human immune system, but the best way to 'win the war' is to develop a vaccine that specifically targets the virus's RBM."
Keren Primor Cohen, CEO of Ramot: "We hope that through this collaboration with Neovii, it will be possible to produce an effective vaccine that targets the coronavirus's Achilles' heel and will accelerate the development of a protective vaccine against this global threat."
Jürgen Pohle, Neovii CEO, commented, "The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how fragile and vulnerable our societies are in the face of a pandemic. We are extremely excited about our collaboration with Professor Gershoni and TAU which provides Neovii with a first-in-class platform for the rapid development of promising vaccine candidates towards any future emerging pandemics including COVID-19. Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccine is highly synergistic to Neovii's core expertise in the development and manufacturing of passive polyclonal antibodies and provides an opportunity to bring a COVID-19 immunotherapy in a rapid manner."
Neovii's long-standing and well-established experience and capabilities in developing, manufacturing and commercializing biopharmaceuticals will support the ambition to have a vaccine ready for use in broader population in an accelerated timeline.
Swiss-based Neovii, a member of Israeli-based Neopharm Group, is an independent, rapidly growing commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company with a patient-focused mission to develop and market novel, life-transforming therapies. Neovii has been dedicated for over three decades to improving the outcomes in transplantation medicine and the treatment options for hemato-oncological as well as immune disorders.
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