In a press release today, biopharmaceutical company Altimmune Inc announced the entry of a teaming agreement with DynPort Vaccine Company (DVC), a company started in 1997 which develops vaccines and therapeutics for US Government.
The agreement coordinates funding from the US government as well as "program management, drug development activity integration, and regulatory support". Altimmune is producing a single-dose "AdCOVID" vaccine for COVID-19 to be administered nasally.
About Nasal Vaccines
Nasal vaccines carry certain advantages over oral and intramuscular vaccines including the ability for consumers to self-administer. Unlike oral and intramuscular (injected) vaccines, administration intranasally enables immunity both systemically and mucousally. The latter carries a specific advantage to preventing infection because most microbes infect primarily through the nasal mucosa as we see with the coronavirus strain causing COVID-19.
Intranasal vaccines administer either via droplets or spray. This technique removes the potential for infections like HIV which could infect via intramuscular injection.
As Altimmune explains, nasal vaccines like AdCOVID carry advantages through the supply chain as well:
"By stimulating mucosal immunity in the nasal cavity, a key point of entry and replication for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, AdCOVID has the potential to defend against both the infection and spread of the virus to others. AdCOVID’s intranasal delivery method provides an easier route of administration than an injection and may eliminate the need for administration by trained medical personnel. In addition, since it is expected to have extended stability at room temperature, AdCOVID may avoid the need for costly cold chain logistics."
With all these advantages and a general dislike for having needles poked into muscle, we might have converted all vaccinations to nasal vaccination. However, there are still some vaccines that simply do not work well enough across the nasal mucosa to provide immunity. In some cases, the natural mucociliary clearance taking place in the nose can inhibit the vaccine from permeating membranes.
DVC Will Boost Altimmune's Path to Creating the Vaccine
Beyond the technical and biological challenges in vaccine creation is the process of getting a vaccine approved. DVC's main advantage in the teaming agreement comes from their status as a "prime contractor and systems integrator for the preclinical, manufacturing, clinical and regulatory activities needed to secure FDA licensure of new drug products."
According to the company, "DVC has supported vaccines and medical countermeasures for emerging diseases and bioterror threats under contracts with the Department of Defense, the Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The partnership with DVC significantly expands Altimmune’s capabilities to efficiently obtain and execute on U.S. Government funding opportunities to support the development of AdCOVID. Altimmune and DVC believe AdCOVID is an attractive vaccine candidate to government funding agencies based on its highly differentiated product profile."
Timeline for AdCOVID
Altimmune expects to begin manufacturing AdCOVID for public use ahead of completing clinical trials, an unusual and optimistic process which is more common in the race to develop a viable COVID-19 vaccine during a pandemic.
Phase 1 clinical trials will begin sometime at the end of the year. Meanwhile, manufacturing is slated to begin in Q3 2020.