US vaccine firm: Human trials could be held in Israel as infection rates rise
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US vaccine firm: Human trials could be held in Israel as infection rates rise

After Jerusalem signed binding term sheet for purchase of drug, CEO of Arcturus Therapeutics says Phase 3 study needs to be held in location with substantial number of cases

A subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, March 16, 2020. (AP/Ted S. Warren, File)
Illustrative: A subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, March 16, 2020. (AP/Ted S. Warren, File)

The head of a US firm developing a COVID-19 vaccine said Sunday that as infection rates of the coronavirus rise in Israel, it could be used as a location for human trials.

“My understanding is that Israel is under some significant challenges with respect to the prevalence of COVID, and it would present an opportunity to perhaps do the registration study in Israel, combining that data with other countries as well,” Arcturus Therapeutics CEO Joseph Payne told Channel 12 news, referring to the Phase 3 human trials.

“It’s key that you have the study in a place where there’s a substantial amount of COVID present so that you can more quickly prove your vaccine works,” Payne said.

Last week Arcturus Therapeutics said it had signed a binding terms sheet with Israel in a deal reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars, days after the firm reached an agreement to begin clinical trials on humans in Singapore for its COVID-19 vaccine.

Arcturus Therapeutics CEO Joseph Payne says Israel could be used for human trials of vaccine, July 27, 2020 (Screen grab/Channel 12 news)

A Channel 12 news report last week, which did not cite any sources, said the Israeli deal to purchase four million vaccines will only go through if the upcoming rounds of testing are successful. The Health Ministry refused to comment on the report.

Arcturus Therapeutics and Duke-NUS medical school, a collaboration between Duke University and the National University of Singapore, announced last week that clinical trials were approved in Singapore for their LUNAR-COV19 vaccine candidate.

Testing will begin on up to 108 adults “as soon as possible,” the partnership said in a statement.

“The approval of the Clinical Trial Application for LUNAR-COV19 is a critical milestone for Arcturus,” said Payne, President and CEO of Arcturus.

The product “may facilitate the mass vaccine campaigns necessary to target hundreds of millions of individuals globally,” he said.

“Preclinical studies on LUNAR-COV19 have shown very promising findings, including the possibility that a single dose of this vaccine may be sufficient to trigger robust and durable immune responses, said Professor Ooi Eng Eong, Deputy Director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS in the statement.

An entrance to a Moderna, Inc., building, May 18, 2020, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

Last month Israel signed a deal with US biotech firm Moderna for the potential purchase of its coronavirus vaccine if it ends up proving effective, Hebrew-language media reported.

The company announced in June that it will enter the third and final stage of its clinical trial in July with 30,000 participants.

Moderna’s vaccine effort is a global frontrunner, alongside a vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca, which has also launched a large-scale trial on 10,000 volunteers and expects results by September.

Because of the desperate need for a vaccine amid the pandemic that has killed more than 624,000 people worldwide, drug companies are scaling up manufacturing with human trials still underway.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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