CEPI expands scope of its centralised laboratory network beyond Covid-19

PT Jyothi Datta | | Updated on: Nov 22, 2021
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Initiative open to Indian laboratories to participate

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is taking the learnings from its Covid-19 vaccine testing network to other priority diseases, including “Disease X”, cause by an unknown lurking pathogen.

CEPI is expanding its international laboratory network, that was set up against the backdrop of the pandemic, to now assess the development of vaccines against other epidemic and pandemic diseases. And this initiative was open to Indian laboratories who want to be part of this network, Valentina Bernasconi, scientist with CEPI and Project Leader for the Centralised Labs Network told BusinessLine.

The call for proposals is two-fold, Bernasconi said, speaking from Oslo. One involved expanding the centralised network to support Covid-19 vaccine development in regions that are not presently represented, such as South America, Africa, and the Oceania region. India, for instance, is already represented on this centralised network through Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI).

And the second part of announcement, involved expanding the international laboratory network to support vaccine development for more diseases, and this was open to more Indian laboratories, she said.

Expanded network

CEPI’s centralised laboratory network is the largest global group using the same methods and materials, like reagents — substances used to carry out a scientific test — to standardise the evaluation of infectious disease vaccines currently undergoing preclinical and clinical trials.

This expanded network will assess candidate vaccines being developed against CEPI’s priority diseases – Chikungunya, Lassa fever, MERS, Nipah, Rift Valley fever, and Disease X, it added.

The centralised testing approach has already been used by over 30 Covid-19 vaccine developers to assess over 15,000 clinical trial samples. CEPI is currently supporting the development of multiple vaccines against high-risk pathogens, identified by the World Health Organization R&D Blueprint as having epidemic potential or as a major public health risk, as part of its $3.5 billion plan to minimise or even eradicate future deadly disease threats.

Dr Melanie Saville, CEPI Director of Vaccine R&D, said: “We’ve already seen multiple deadly disease outbreaks affecting populations over the twenty-first century - and we know that the next pandemic is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’.“ On being prepared for future outbreaks, she said, “This means building on what we’ve learned and created during this current crisis and extending our centralised labs network to also test against other known threats - and a potential future ‘Disease X’.”

Evaluation process

During the typical vaccine evaluation process, the immune response of each vaccine candidate under development is assessed using different tools and measurements at individual testing sites, allowing for variability in results, CEPI explained.

For example, there may be potential variation in the way in which different type of immune biomarkers, like antibodies and T-cells, are measured. Technical differences in how and where vaccine clinical trial samples are collected, transported, and stored can also occur, impacting the quality and usefulness of the data produced and making comparisons between measurements difficult. By following the same protocols and using the same biological reagents, laboratories within CEPI’s centralised network can instead ensure uniformity in the assessment of different vaccine candidates, it said.

Published on November 22, 2021

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