COVID-19 vaccine developed by UB startup enters human trials

March 3, 2021 | 10:18pm EST

A COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by a UB spinoff company has progressed to human trials in South Korea, according to a UBNow story.

The vaccine candidate, called EuCorVac-19, was jointly developed by Buffalo biotech company POP Biotechnologies and South Korean biotech company EuBiologics. POP Biotechnologies was founded in 2015 by former UB students Kevin Carter and Jonathan Smyth and UB faculty member Jonathan Lovell.

EuCorVac-19 is a liquid injection that can be stored and distributed at refrigerated temperatures, unlike the ultra-cold storage the PfizerBioNTech vaccine requires. The candidate generated strong immune responses in animal models and was approved for combined phase 1 and 2 clinical trials by the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in January.

The first phase will include 50 healthy Korean adults and tests for safety, tolerance and immune response. The second phase will include 230 adults and tests for immune response and dosage. The companies hope to begin the third phase later this year.

“Commencing first-in-human trials is a monumental step forward for our technology,” Smyth said in the release. “Achieving this critical milestone provides validation toward not only serving this unprecedented global crisis, but also provides invaluable support toward our platform’s development, further enabling the creation of new vaccines with tremendous potential to alleviate suffering worldwide.”

Before the pandemic, POP Bio primarily focused on developing cancer therapies and a vaccine against HIV using something called Spontaneous Nanoliposome Antigen Particleization (SNAP), a vaccine-delivery platform. But last March, the company began working to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine candidate using SNAP, a decision POP Bio hopes will not only benefit the fight against COVID-19, but the fight against HIV as well.

“Because SNAP is a vaccine-platform technology, it could be applicable to any vaccine-related indication, for both chronic and infectious diseases,” Lovell said. “In-human testing for the COVID-19 vaccine will de-risk the technology for other indications too.”

POP Biotechnologies won the UB School of Management and UB Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships’ Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition in 2015. POP Bio has worked from UB’s Incubator @ Baird, a research park for startup companies, since 2017.

Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at