The University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia has announced plans to advance a second-generation molecular clamp vaccine into a Phase I clinical trial for disease outbreaks in the future.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will provide funds of up to $5.7m (AU$8.5m) for developing the second-generation molecular clamp vaccine platform of the university to fight the next Disease X. 

This proof-of-concept, human trial will analyse the promising technology for possible use to combat disease outbreaks in the future, including those caused by new pathogens.

The ‘molecular clamp’ technology functions by ‘locking’ viral proteins, linked to the infection and cell entry, into a shape that provides the best immune response. 

Such a process needs a viral protein sequence, which can be chosen from its genome, and is subsequently attached with a streamlined ‘clamp’ sequence. 

The resultant synthetic antigen can be purified and quickly produced into a vaccine.

A prior molecular clamp technology was re-engineered by the UQ team, and its promise and safety were validated in lab testing.

The team has also designed a second-generation version of their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leveraging this upgraded technology.

A Phase I trial will commence soon to analyse the safety and immunogenicity compared to other Covid-19 vaccines, which are currently approved. 

CEPI Vaccine R&D executive director Dr Melanie Saville said: “This second-generation molecular clamp vaccine technology could provide the world with an invaluable tool to rapidly respond to future pandemic threats. 

“CEPI is now implementing its $3.5bn pandemic plan, which includes substantial investments in multiple platform technologies.

“These investments will help the world respond to the next Disease X and compress vaccine development timelines down to 100 days, so that we can mitigate the devastating economic and human costs of epidemic and pandemic diseases.”