LONDONFeb. 24, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — ConserV Bioscience Limited (“ConserV”), a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing vaccines that protect against endemic and emergent infectious diseases, has been awarded UK Aid funding to advance development of its pan-coronavirus vaccine candidate, UNICOR-v.

The project was selected by the UK Vaccine Network (UKVN) for the award under the competition “Vaccines for epidemic diseases: Readiness for clinical development and regulatory submission.” This is one of twenty-two projects funded by the Department of Health and Social Care as part of the UKVN, a UK Aid programme to develop vaccines for diseases with epidemic potential in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

ConserV specialises in identifying broadly protective antigens for highly mutable viruses. The grant will fund preclinical development of an intra-dermal formulation of UNICOR-v, which consists of twelve antigens from conserved regions of internal viral proteins that include clusters of reactive T-cell epitopes for multiple human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). The project will compare four different formulations of UNICOR-v, delivering antigens as synthetic peptides or encoded in mRNA. Preclinical immunogenicity and efficacy of the candidate vaccines will be evaluated, providing necessary evidence to enter clinical trials.

UNICOR-v aims to protect against all coronaviruses including those from alpha, beta, delta, and gamma genera. The betacoronavirus genus includes SARS-Cov-1, responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003, MERS, responsible for the outbreak in 2012-13 and SARS-Cov-2, responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic, all of which originated from viruses jumping from animal hosts to humans. Alphacoronaviruses include strains responsible for the common cold in humans amongst other viruses that infect other mammals. Gammacoronaviruses are mainly found in birds, whereas deltacoronavirus infect mammals and birds. UNICOR-v has the potential to protect against future epidemics caused by a coronavirus jumping from animals to humans, but also against new variants emerging from SARS-Cov-2, avoiding the need for frequent booster vaccinations in response to variants that escape vaccine-induced antibody responses.

Scientists predict that the frequency and severity of epidemics are increasing, driven by human activities and their impact on the environment. Designing a vaccine as an emergency response to an emergent virus takes time during which millions of lives are at risk and considerable economic damage can be done, as demonstrated in the Covid-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic vaccines are necessary to protect against viruses which have not yet emerged in humans.

Kimbell Duncan, Chief Executive Officer of ConserV, commented: “Our mission is to develop safe and effective vaccines which offer broad protection against infections from viruses that mutate frequently. We are grateful to the UKVN and Innovate UK for being selected for this award which will help us advance UNICOR-v into clinical trials.”

Dr. Olga Pleguezuelos, Chief Science Officer of ConserV, commented: “We are very excited to advance the development of UNICOR-v with UKVN and Innovate UK’s support. ConserV Bioscience is committed to creating a vaccine that provides readiness against future coronaviruses.”

About ConserV Bioscience Limited

ConserV Bioscience Limited, based in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, is a clinical-stage vaccine development company focused on advancing safe and effective vaccines that protect against endemic and emergent infectious diseases. ConserV Bioscience has a pipeline of eight vaccines at various stages of pre-clinical and clinical development including vaccine candidates to protect against broad-spectrum influenza (Phase III), mosquito-borne diseases (Phase II), HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, Chagas, and broad-spectrum coronavirus.

About the UK Vaccine Network:

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is the UK Government department which is responsible for helping people to live more independent, healthier lives for longer. This investment is part of the UK Vaccine Network (UKVN). UKVN was established to provide funding to support the development of promising vaccines and vaccine technologies that will help combat infectious diseases that have epidemic potential in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). UKVN is a £120m UK Aid investment, which means all projects funded must support research primarily and directly for the benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).