BUFFALO, N.Y. — POP Biotechnologies Inc. (POP BIO) received a $599,981, two-year Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) under Award No. 1R43AI165089-01, supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to pursue development of a potentially life-saving vaccine technology to address the ongoing pandemic crisis caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the microbe responsible for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), through the development of a thermostable recombinant nanoparticle vaccine.
The award supports a collaboration between POP BIO and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed), with the goal of using POP BIO’s next-generation vaccine delivery platform to generate a novel vaccine that seeks to break the cold-chain requirements, and the resulting costs and challenges associated with the need to maintain the cold chain. The delivery platform, a liposome-based vaccine adjuvant, leverages technology that POP BIO has licensed from the State University of New York Research Foundation (SUNY-RF). A vaccine utilizing the POP BIO technology, EuCorVac-19, is currently in Phase II clinical studies through an ongoing collaboration and licensing arrangement between POP BIO and the Korean vaccine maker Eubiologics, Co. Ltd.
President, POP Biotechnologies
“The development of a thermostable SARS-CoV-2 vaccine would be a game-changer” says Jonathan Smyth, president of POP BIO. “Eliminating the need to maintain cold-chain would dramatically reduce the cost of distribution and simplify the logistics of delivery.”
“Next-generation vaccine technologies that are stable without freezing or refrigeration could greatly facilitate global distribution of much-needed COVID-19 vaccines” says Jonathan Lovell, PhD, POP BIO co-founder and an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at University at Buffalo.
The global COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 is unprecedented in our lifetime and has caused tremendous social, economic, and human suffering. Globally, there have been 76,858,506 confirmed cases, leading to 1,711,498 deaths as reported by the WHO through December 2020. The economic impact of COVID-19 is estimated to be almost 4 trillion dollars in lost economic output.
POP BIO’s vaccine delivery platform is called SNAP (Spontaneous Nanoliposome Antigen Particleization). SNAP consists of specialized liposomes, originally developed in Lovell’s UB lab, that bind to and improve the efficacy of vaccine antigens — molecules that prompt the body to produce antibodies that neutralize disease.
In the NIH-funded project, POP BIO will partner with Dr. Luis Martinez-Sobrido’s group at Texas Biomed to combine SNAP liposomes with leading SARS-CoV-2 antigens in an attempt to generate a thermostable product. Then, scientists will test the effectiveness of the new vaccine in inducing an immune response in animals.
Martinez-Sobrido, PhD, professor in the Department Disease Intervention & Prevention at Texas Biomed is widely recognized in the development of recombinant viruses, specifically influenza, arenaviruses, and Zika virus, using plasmid-based reverse genetic approaches. His group is primarily focused on the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.