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Gates Funding Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Device

Covid-19 illustration


12 Mar. 2020. A biotechnology company developing a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus received funding to scale up a delivery device for the vaccine when it’s available. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $5 million to Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania for mass production of the company’s vaccine delivery system.

The novel coronavirus or Covid-19 virus is now a global pandemic. A global case tracking dashboard hosted by Johns Hopkins University says as of today (12 March), nearly 128,000 cases are reported in 116 countries, leading to more than 4,700 deaths. In the U.S., 1,323 Covid-19 cases are confirmed, with 38 deaths attributed to the disease.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals is a developer of vaccines and therapies for infectious diseases and cancer, licensing discoveries from the lab of immunologist David Weiner, now director of the Wistar Institute’s Vaccine Center and previously at University of Pennsylvania. In the company’s process, called DMab — short for DNA monoclonal antibody — DNA fragments are ingested into cells, where they’re exposed to 3 to 4 mild electrical pulses. Inovio calls this electronic assistance its Cellectra system that increases the uptake of DNA to generate more antibodies.

The company’s vaccine delivery device, called Cellectra 3PSP, is a small, portable battery-powered system that administers Innovio’s vaccines through the skin by personnel in the field. As reported by Science & Enterprise in June 2019, Inovio received an $8.14 million award from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, part of Department of Defense, to develop the system. The company says the device is designed for large-scale infectious disease vaccination campaigns, easily stockpiled without maintenance, and already received a CE symbol indicating clearance to market the device in Europe.

In January, Inovio received a $9 million grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, to develop a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, one of three awards for rapid creation of a vaccine to stop the spread of the fast-moving pathogen. The company says its Covid-19 vaccine, code-named INO-4800, is in preclinical studies and planned to advance into Phase 1 clinical trials in the U.S. in April. Inovio plans to produce enough Cellectra 3PSP devices in its San Diego manufacturing plant to administer one million doses of INO-4800 by the end of the year.

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