Currently approved SARS-CoV-2 vaccines based on classical (protein subunit) or newer (mRNA, adenoviral vectors) technologies only express parts of the Spike protein. Therefore, the efficacy of these vaccines for sustained control of SARS-CoV-2 variants is likely to be limited. The dramatic rapid circulation of the Omicron variants also raised the question of whether approved vaccines can effectively protect the human population from reinfection and symptomatic disease. RocketVax aims to overcome these limitations by developing several vaccine candidates using the replication-incompetent and slow-replication competent live-attenuated SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
One of the RocketVax vaccines, based on a live-attenuated SARS-CoV-2 virus and named RVX-sCPD9, confirmed high preclinical efficacy. The new study, led by Dr. Jakob Trimpert and Dr. Dusan Kunec from Freie Universität Berlin, demonstrated that the intranasal administration of the RVX-sCPD9 activates a broad spectrum of mucosal and systemic immune system components, therefore showing a potential route to ending the pandemic. The superior efficacy is made possible by an innovative SARS-CoV-2 virus attenuation technology, which reduces the virus replication to harmless levels while exposing all viral proteins to the immune system. As a result, the immunity triggered by RVX-sCPD9 is more robust, and vaccinees are less susceptible to infection with current or future virus variants.
Furthermore, because sCPD9 is applied intranasally, it induces strong mucosal immunity in the upper respiratory tract, providing superior protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection at the site of virus entry. Importantly, RVX-sCPD9 demonstrated extraordinary results compared to existing vaccine technologies, be it mRNA or adenovirus-based vectors. The RocketVax vaccine showed effective neutralization of all variants of concern: Beta, Delta, and notably Omicron, which escape neutralization by mRNA or adenovirus-based vaccines. When given as a booster vaccine after mRNA prime or adenovirus vaccination, RVX-sCPD9 was superior to double mRNA vaccination and double adenovirus vaccination.
In summary, several demonstrated benefits of the RVX-sCPD9 live-attenuated vaccine make it a promising candidate for further clinical development:
- Excellent activation of all components of the immune system
- Efficient neutralization of the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern
- Extraordinary performance as compared to the widely used mRNA or adenovirus-based vaccine technologies
- Practical application as de novo or a booster vaccination using simple intranasal needle-free administration
RVX-sCPD9 vaccine was discovered at the Freie Universität Berlin by Prof. Nikolaus Osterrieder, Dr. Dusan Kunec and Dr. Jakob Trimpert. The basis for discovering RVX-sCPD9 was the cloned SARS-CoV-2 virus construct of Prof. Volker Thiel from the Institute of Virology and Immunology and the University of Bern in Switzerland. The project is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s National Research Program “Covid-19” (NRP 78) and the German Research Foundation.
RocketVax AG, a subsidiary of Swiss Rockets AG, has entered into a new partnership with a consortium of renowned research institutions. The collaboration with the consortium provides RocketVax with an additional portfolio of technologies. Members of this new consortium are leading institutes from Switzerland and Germany: the Institute of Virology and Immunology IVI, the University of Bern, the University of Geneva, the Freie Universität Berlin, and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute. The consortium is led by Prof. Volker Thiel, the Institute of Virology and Immunology, and the University of Bern, a pioneer in coronavirus research.
About RocketVax AG:
RocketVax has its foundation in the ties between Swiss Rockets AG, a Swiss incubator and accelerator for startups with innovative therapies, and a team of expert scientists from the Universities of Basel and Zurich, the ETH Zurich, the University Hospital Basel, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, and Gigabases Switzerland AG, a spinoff of ETH Zurich.
RocketVax’s first group of vaccines addresses the SARS-CoV-2 virus and are currently undergoing preclinical testing while preparing for the production of the vaccines for human clinical trials. At RocketVax, proprietary molecular biology technologies are used to develop novel vaccines for infectious diseases like COVID-19, cancer, and auto-immune disorders. Several vaccine candidates in the pipeline are being developed. They include the original live, single-cycle virus vaccine, live-attenuated vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, and a vaccine candidate against cancer.
About Swiss Rockets AG:
Founded in 2018, Swiss Rockets AG is implementing a paradigm shift in healthcare. Patients benefit from new therapies developed with innovative and pioneering methods. The Swiss Rockets AG team combines expertise and experience to create innovative medicines focused on cancer and viral diseases.
The founders of Swiss Rockets AG are Dr. Vladimir Cmiljanovic, Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, Manuel Ebner, Dr. Thomas Sander and Dr. Thomas Staehelin. Vladimir Cmiljanovic is the CEO, a medicinal chemist, and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in cancer drug development. He is the founder of the Swiss biotech companies PIQUR AG and TargImmune AG. With his sister Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, the Chief Scientific Officer of Swiss Rockets AG, he has developed cancer drugs at the University of Basel. He has also founded and managed several biotech companies. Manuel Ebner is a Managing Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Switzerland, and a strategic advisor to Swiss Rockets AG. Dr. Thomas Sander, one of the first employees of Actelion's biotech company, is a scientific advisor to Swiss Rockets AG. Dr. Thomas Staehelin, the co-founder of Swiss Rockets AG, is a member of the Executive Board and Chairman of several companies and foundations.
Members of the Board of Directors of Swiss Rockets AG are Dr. Vladimir Cmiljanovic (Chairman), Prof. Dr. Michael N. Hall, a renowned researcher and professor at the Center for Molecular Biosciences at the University of Basel, Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, a medicinal chemist and clinical scientist with experience in the development of cancer drugs, Dr. Thomas Ladner, a business lawyer, founder and co-founder of several successful start-ups and the World. Minds Foundation, and André Debrunner, a financial expert and fund manager at Northern Trust Switzerland AG.