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Funder seeking to fill research gaps for Covid-19 vaccines

Projects tackling virus variants or expanding access to vaccines supported by $140m funding pot

An international funder central to global Covid-19 vaccine development is offering $140 million to research groups that can fill gaps in evidence for existing vaccines, through a call launched on 28 January.

During 2020, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations had a hand in Covid-19 vaccines developed by Moderna, Novavax, and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. “There are obviously a lot of additional questions that come up that are not on that straightforward pathway to licensure,” Jakob Cramer, Cepi’s head of clinical development, told Research Professional News.

These questions include whether vaccines are as effective against new variants of the virus spreading rapidly in different global regions. Covax, the global initiative aiming at equal access to Covid-19 vaccines, of which Cepi is a leading member, said on 8 February that clinical trials could include “mix-and-match” studies of different vaccines used in combinations.

Cramer also said efficacy trials for vaccines have not, so far, included groups such as pregnant or breast-feeding women, or young people under 16, and that more evidence is needed to expand access to vaccines for such groups. Most trials to date have also taken place in high-income countries. “We would like to expand the evidence to low- and middle-income countries,” he said.

The call, which closes on 28 May, is open to any research group able to run a clinical trial on vaccines that are either licensed or already in human trials.

Correction 11/2 – This article was updated to reflect that the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine has not yet been licensed as originally stated. It has shown positive results in clinical trials.