The Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 (IMI2) Joint Undertaking mobilised more than 33 million euros to support Inno4vac, an innovative public-private partnership to accelerate vaccine R&D timelines. It will focus on the design and application of new and highly advanced predictive models to allow a faster development and manufacturing of novel vaccines. Leiden University Center for Infectious Diseases (LU-CID) and the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) will together receive a total of 4 million euros to help develop controlled human infection models for influenza, RSV and clostridioides difficile.
Inno4vac aims to foster health innovation by incorporating scientific and technological breakthrough from the academic and biotech sectors into industry. It is coordinated by the European Vaccine Initiative (Germany), with the support from the Sclavo Vaccines Association (Italy), for the scientific coordination, and involves 41 partners from 11 different European countries, including 37 academic institutions and SMEs, as well as GSK, Sanofi Pasteur, CureVac and Takeda as industry partners.
Vibrant hub of expertise
‘The expertise of the Controlled Human Infection Center at LUMC provides a unique environment which fosters collaboration between industry and academia, as we have seen during the pandemic, but which has now been recognised also by IMI.’ says project leader Prof. Meta Roestenberg. ‘We are extremely fortunate to capitalize on the expertise of CHDR to perform high-quality clinical trials in their clinical research unit. Under the visionary lead of Dr. Ingrid de Visser-Kamerling, Associate Director at CHDR, part of CHDR’s unit has recently been adapted to facilitate quarantine of influenza- or RSV-infected individuals, which is ideal for the Inno4vac project.’ Over the past years, Dr. De Visser has spearheaded clinical trials with multiple preventive or therapeutic products in the area of infectious diseases. ‘In close collaboration with Prof. Roestenberg, we have created a vibrant hub of expertise needed to accelerate drug and vaccine research.’ says De Visser.
Essential connection of industry partners
Crucial within the project is the connection with the industry partners, recognising the need for tools to rapidly assess novel products in man, with the academic knowhow of pathophysiology of disease. ‘Connecting the expertise of LU-CID has been essential to obtain this grant’, Dr. Wiep Klaas Smits (LU-CID) explains. His group takes a world-leading position studying the molecular biology of Clostridioides difficile, expertise which will be essential to the production of Clostridioides for human infection studies and the analysis of samples afterwards. Samples from the studies with respiratory viruses, however, will be analysed at the lab of Dr. Simon Jochems, who spearheads the -omics analysis of the mucosal immune system and the development of novel in vitro culture models that allow detailed study of host-pathogen interactions. Dr. Smits: ‘The expertise of Dr. Jochems is essential to understand the human response to these different pathogens and complementary to what my group can bring. We are keen to start this project and excited to see what it will teach us. I believe this is just the beginning of an expanding field of research at the interface of preclinical and clinical science, including academic pharma’.
Four main areas will be addressed by Inno4vac in an integrated manner:
(1) artificial intelligence will be used for in silico vaccine immune response and efficacy prediction;
(2) a modular computational platform will be developed for in silico modelling of vaccine bio-manufacturing and stability testing;
(3) new and improved controlled human infection models (CHIM) of influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and clostridioides difficile will be established to enable early vaccine efficacy evaluation, and
(4) novel cell-based human in vitro 3D models will be developed to reliably predict immune protection.
For more information about Inno4vac, read the full press release of the European Vaccine Initiative.
This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 101007799. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA.
This communication reflects the author´s view and neither IMI nor the European Union, EFPIA, or any Associated Partners are responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.