Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP) through CBQF - Centre of Biotechnology and Fine Chemistry integrated in School of Biotechnology, in partnership with Amyris and the American Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), is currently working on the development of sustainable vaccine adjuvants for application in pandemic scenarios. Current adjuvants have some limitations, including difficulty in large-scale production, lack of sustainability, or lack of capacity to reduce the amount of antigen needed in the final formulation.
The GluVac project was born in response to a challenge launched by IDRI to UCP and Amyris, with the primary objective of producing and exploiting biopolymers with immunomodulatory properties, with the potential to be incorporated as vaccine adjuvants against future pandemics. This tripartite collaboration is expected to be extended in the near future, namely in the development of therapeutic, prophylactic and diagnostic solutions for different purposes.
João Carlos Fernandes, the principal investigator of the project, says, "The challenge of GluVac-Covid19, mainly due to the pandemic context that we currently live in, is to be able to answer to the need to develop innovative solutions that adapt to new pathogens and to accelerate the process of developing new vaccines, focusing on the vaccine for Covid-19".
The president of Amyris Bioproducts Portugal, Miguel Barbosa, explains, "The adjuvants for vaccines play a key role in the immune response caused by a large number of vaccines, including some vaccines against SARS-CoV2 that are under development". Therefore, Amyris is developing a new sustainable way of providing an adjunct already used by industry, and in the development of adjuvants more effective.
In this sense, Miguel Barbosa states that "the GluVac project will allow to develop and to launch these adjuvants on the market by leveraging the skills of Amyris and its partner in Portugal: the Faculty of Biotechnology from Universidade Católica."
The GluVac project brings together a consortium, and institutions with recognized experience to support Amyris – a leading American company in yeast engineering and healthcare-driven products – to achieve the goals of the project. A team from Universidade Católica Portuguesa with extensive scientific knowledge in key-areas essential to the project (analytical chemistry, clinical biochemistry and biotechnology), the Infectious Disease Research Institute – a global health organization focused on the discovery and formulation of vaccine adjuvants -, and the Coimbra Institute for Clinical and Biomedical Research of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra.
The project is promoted by Amyris Bio Products Portugal and is co-financed by COMPETE 2020, under the R&D Incentive System Companies and Testing Infrastructures and Optimization (COVID-19), involving an eligible investment of 282.000,00€, which resulted in an FEDER incentive of around 251.000,00€.
GluVac-COVID19: development of an adjuvant for SARsCov2 vaccines