Interview with CEO of MVA-member, Chart Biotech, Sancha Salgueiro, about vaccine development and the challenges involved in developing a COVID-19 vaccine

Jun 10, 2020

In our series of MVA-member company interviews, we have also reached out to MVA-member, Chart Biotech, and asked CEO, Sancha Salgueiro, a few specific questions about vaccine development and the challenges involved in developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

Q1: What are the key challenges facing those life science R&D companies, which currently try to develop a Covid-19 vaccine?

There are many, and here I would like to highlight one:
Will their vaccine approach work, meaning, will it elicit a neutralizing antibody response, and have an acceptable safety profile? Current pipeline includes many approaches of vaccine design, some for which there has been no approved product yet. COVID-19 vaccine developers are facing all the usual challenges in a “normal” vaccine development, PLUS the fact that we are learning about the virus and the disease as we go along with development. Coronavirus are known, but this SARS-CoV-2 has already shown us many times that we don’t know much about it.

Q2: Which public, private or public-private initiatives or partnerships do you consider particularly promising when it comes to the successful development of a Covid-19 vaccine?

Those that include a broad enough range of partners, capable of understanding and delivering on the many aspects that have to work: there is the vaccine design, the adjuvant, the access to the right experimental models, and the access to trial participants, the manufacturing platforms and their ability to deliver on quality and on scale, the speed of ramping up production, because this is a pandemic, so we are talking many 100’s of millions of vaccine doses needed, the ability to deploy the vaccines where they are needed. Partnerships that can deliver on these challenges will be stronger. In the Nordic countries, two partnerships that are taking very different vaccine design approaches, both include many of the relevant partners : PREVENT nCoV (ADAPTVAC) and OPENCORONA (Lead by a team at KAROLINSKA Institute).

Q3: What do you expect to be the earliest time possible such a vaccine can be made available?

It will depend very much on whether the candidates in the pipeline can elicit the right response in terms of development of neutralising antibodies, with no or very few adverse effects, and on whether those candidates can be manufactured fast, at scale and with the right quality. Current international efforts to coordinate the strategies and data collection in clinical trials of the many candidates in development, will hopefully bring time saving in clinical development.
Being an optimistic, would love to believe it could be done in a few months, but realistically, it looks like it will be more than one year from now – on best case scenarios. I would love to be so wrong, and that it can happen much faster.

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