To evaluate the efficacy of potential COVID-19 vaccine candidates, a leading non-profit health emergency group has set up a global laboratory network that gives scientists and drugmakers ease in comparing and selecting the most effective shots.
Melanie Saville, director of vaccine R&D at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), stated that as the drug makers are competing to develop an effective vaccine to curb the pandemic, the aim of this lab is to offer a facility to compare between each manufacturer’s shots.
This initiative is a first of its kind to be developed in response to a pandemic. Initially, six labs will be opened in Canada, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and India and it will analyze samples from trials of COVID-19 candidates to reduce the variation in results as if it is being tested under one roof.
“When you start off with developing potential new vaccines especially with a new disease, everyone develops their own assays, they all use different protocols and different reagents. so while you get a readout, the ability to compare between different candidates is very difficult. By taking the centralized lab approach it will give us a chance to really make sure we are comparing apples with apples.”
Currently, there are over hundreds of potential COVID-19 vaccines being developed around the globe while countries like Russia and China have already made it available to the public even before completing trials. Other leading developers such as Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are expecting to conduct their final-stage trial and obtain results before the year-end.
Further, the immunogenicity of each vaccine candidate is evaluated in separate labs, which focus to find if the biomarkers of immune response that means to see if antibodies and T-cell responses are generated in the volunteers after receiving a dose or doses of the vaccine.
Saville says that as there are more than 320 vaccine candidates in work there is a risk of variation in data collection and evaluation methods.
Also the difference in how and where samples are collected, transported and stored can affect the efficacy and usefulness of the data generated which in turn makes the comparisons tricky.
Moreover, the usage of a range of vaccine technologies from viral vector vaccines to ones based on messenger RNA standard, evaluation of their true potential becomes even more difficult.
All the potential COVID-19 vaccines candidates can make use of the centralized lab network without any charges to evaluate their vaccines under a common protocol. Currently, CEPI is planning to assess the samples in the first and second stage human trials and the network is likely to widen its capacity to analyze the Phase III trial data in the coming months.
Neither the CEPI nor the network will own the data provided by the developer and it will be sent back along with results obtained.
CEPI itself is co-funding nine of the potential COVID-19 candidates which are in development including vaccines by Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax and CureVac.