The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Imperial College London have announced a partnership to develop a self-amplifying RNA vaccine platform (saRNA), enabling tailored vaccine production against multiple viral pathogens.

The saRNA approach aims to harness the body’s own cell machinery to make an antigen, such as a foreign substance that induces an immune response, rather than injecting the antigen directly.

The consortium aims to develop ‘RapidVac’, a synthetic saRNA vaccine platform, which will be used to produce vaccines against influenza, rabies and Malburg virus, with hopes to move these products to Phase I clinical testing in humans.

Prof Robin Shattock, chair in Mucosal Infection and Immunity at Imperial College and prinicipal investigator, said: “Next to access to clean water, vaccines have provided the greatest public health impact in human history. Today they are needed more than ever - essential to outbreak response, biosecurity, and the ever-present threat of a Disease X scenario”.

“We believe that synthetic self-amplifying RNA based vaccines offer the best opportunity for a ‘just in time’ response to infectious outbreaks, providing the needed technological shift to aggressively redefine the timelines for vaccine production. We are delighted to partner with CEPI in realising the promise of this new platform.”

Currently vaccines can take 10 years or more to develop. They must go through many phases of development, including research, discovery, preclinical testing, clinical testing, and regulatory approval.

However, as epidemics are sporadic by nature, unpredictable and fast-moving, this partnership aims to develop vaccines against new and unknown pathogens within 16 weeks from identification of antigen to product release for clinical trials.