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BunyaVax provides technology to develop a human Rift Valley Fever vaccine in a $12.5 million project financed by CEPI

BunyaVax is technology provider in a consortium led by Wageningen Bioveterinary Research and financed by CEPI to develop a human vaccine against Rift Valley Fever. With support from the European Union’s (EU’s) Horizon 2020 programme, CEPI will provide up to US$12.5 million for vaccine manufacturing, preclinical research, and a phase 1 study to assess the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of a single-dose vaccine candidate (RVFV-4s) against Rift Valley fever virus for use in humans.

To produce this vaccine candidate, researchers at WBVR have altered the genome of the Rift Valley fever virus in a way that significantly weakens it. BunyaVax as a spin-off company from WBVR owns the underlying technology and further develops the vaccine towards application. The “attenuated” Rift Valley fever virus will now be used as a vaccine to generate a lasting immune response against the disease. This investment is part of CEPI’s third call for proposals, launched earlier this year with support from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 857934.[1]

Rift Valley fever

Rift Valley fever vaccines have already been used successfully to protect livestock, but currently none have been licensed for use in humans.

Rift Valley fever virus mainly affects people living in pastoral communities in low-income and middle-income countries.[2] While the virus mostly infects humans through contact with the blood or organs of infected animals, there is a concern that it could also be transmitted from human-to-human by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which could change its epidemiology considerably.[3] In view of the epidemic threat posed by this disease, the WHO has classified it as a priority pathogen in need of urgent R&D investment.[4]

Rift Valley fever kills about one in every hundred people infected. In people who develop the haemorrhagic form of the disease, the fatality rate is as high as 50%.[5],[6]

The virus was first identified in 1931 during an investigation into an outbreak among sheep on a farm in the Rift Valley of Kenya. Multiple outbreaks have since been reported across the African continent and on the Arabian Peninsula.

Between May and June, 2018, concurrent cases of Rift Valley fever were reported in farmers in South Africa and Kenya, nearly 5000 km apart.[7],[8] There is also an ongoing outbreak on the island of Mayotte, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean. As of May 13, 2019, 129 human and 109 animal cases of Rift Valley fever have been confirmed on the island.[9]

Prof. Jeroen Kortekaas, project lead and molecular virologist at WBVR, said:

“With this strategic collaboration, CEPI acknowledges the concept of One Health, by bringing together veterinary and public health experts to fight an emerging virus that affects both animals and humans.”

Jochem Bossenbroek, CEO of BunyaVax, said: “BunyaVax forwards a new generation of vaccines against infectious diseases, based on breakthrough platform technology originating from Wageningen Bioveterinary Research. We are excited to be working with CEPI to advance our lead vaccine against Rift Valley Fever and take key steps towards protecting societies at risk.”

[1] https://cepi.net/news_cepi/cepi-launches-call-for-proposals-to-develop-vaccines-against-rift-valley-fever- and-chikungunya-viruses/

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352771418300363

[3] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0210122

[4] https://www.who.int/blueprint/priority-diseases/en/

[5] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/rift-valley-fever

[6] https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/rift-valley-fever/en/

[7] https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/vbz.2018.2357

[8] https://www.who.int/csr/don/18-june-2018-rift-valley-fever-kenya/en/

[9] https://www.who.int/csr/don/13-may-2019-rift-valley-fever-mayotte-france/en/

Source: BunyaVax