The production of a vaccine against the harmful MERS coronavirus is funded by the international vaccine initiative CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) with up to 36 million dollars. The promising candidate has been researched up to clinical phase I at the DZIF and is now being further developed together with the company IDT Biologika in a consortium of scientists and doctors. Scientists have now conducted a first-in-human trial.
Identified for the first time back in 2012 in the Middle East, the MERS coronavirus (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is spread to humans by dromedaries by droplet infection. The pathogen primarily causes infections in the respiratory system that can be severe and lead to death in 35 per cent of cases. The World Health Organisation sees a need for research, as the virus can cause epidemics. There has been no vaccine to date.
The vaccine candidate, which has been in development at the DZIF since 2013, is based on an attenuated virus (MVA: Modified Ankara Virus) that has had protein components of the MERS virus added to it. The company IDT Biologika developed its own cell line and modern technology for producing the vaccine on a larger scale.
The safety and tolerability of the vaccine has currently been tested in a clinical phase I trial at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), in collaboration with the Clinical Trial Center North (CTC North). The results are promising.
The funding provided by CEPI is fed via IDT Biologika to a consortium of scientists and doctors, which, together with IDT and the DZIF, belong to the Viroscience Department at the Erasmus Medical Center and the Clinical Research Organisation CR2O.