Gates Foundation backs gene-based COVID vax trial

Jan. 29, 2021

The AAVCOVID vaccine program, a novel gene-based vaccine strategy that utilizes an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector, was granted up to $2.1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help advance candidates towards human trials.

Preliminary tests of the vaccines' stability and potency reveal advantages: candidates remained potent and effective when stored at room temperature for up to one month.

The program, founded at Mass General Brigham at the outset of the pandemic, uses AAV vectors to deliver genetic DNA fragments of SARS-CoV-2 which generate a coronavirus spike antigen protein that is designed to elicit an immune response to prevent infection.

AAVs are already being used by Novartis, including in the drugmaker's Zolgensma gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy.

AAVCOVID was developed through an academia-industry consortium with groups within Mass Eye and Ear, and Massachusetts General Hospital, both member hospitals of Mass General Brigham in Boston, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Novartis Gene Therapies. The program already has a manufacturing agreement with several gene therapy industry partners led by Novartis Gene Therapies.


Read the Reuters coverage