A preclinical study investigating CureVac’s first-generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, compared to its GlaxoSmithKline-partnered second-generation vaccine candidate, CV2CoV, has found that better activation of innate and adaptive immune responses was achieved with CV2CoV, resulting in faster response onset, higher titers of antibodies and stronger memory B and T cell activation, as compared to CVnCoV.

The study, conducted in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, assessed cynomolgus macaques vaccinated with 12µg of either the first- or second-generation vaccine candidate.

Higher antibody neutralising capacity was observed with CV2CoV across all selected variants, including the Beta, Delta and Lambda variants.

“In this animal model, CV2CoV is shown to induce broad antibody and cellular immune responses very similar to the breadth of the immune responses observed after infection with SARS-CoV-2,” said Igor Splawski, chief scientific officer of CureVac.

Rino Rappuoli, chief scientist and head of GSK Vaccines R&D added: “The mRNA technology is a key strategic priority for us, and we are investing significantly in a number of mRNA programs focused on the collaboration with CureVac. The strong immune response and protection in pre-clinical testing of this second-generation mRNA backbone are very encouraging and represent an important milestone for its further development.”

The CureVac-GSK COVID-19 collaboration announced in February 2021 extends the existing strategic mRNA technology partnership both companies started in July 2020. The partnership focuses on the development of new products based on CureVac’s second-generation RNA-technology for different targets in the field of infectious diseases.

A Phase I clinical trial is expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2021.