In the latest development, Ghent-based biotech startup myNEO announced that it has identified promising COVID-19 peptides that will undergo further preclinical testing in collaboration with a European biotech company with a cancer vaccine technology. The goal is to test the vaccine in early 2021 on humans.
Long term protection
Leveraging the existing cancer treatment technology, the COVID-19 vaccine aims to provide long-term protection to more than 80% of the global population. The startup, which is supported by Start it @KBC is developing a carefully chosen cocktail of peptides (pieces of protein) that are essential for the virus, to initiate a highly targeted immune response.
This approach has several advantages over using a complete virus. By specifically choosing fragments that are necessary for the virus to work, the vaccine has better efficiency against both SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19) and all other (future) forms of the same virus family with those same parts.
Unlike other companies, the Ghent-based startup not only focuses on the Spike-protein but also the E-, M- and N proteins are analysed. These proteins are in fact also important for the survival of the virus and thus analysing them can increase the likelihood of a highly effective vaccine.
On top of that, myNEO aims for a vaccine that activates immune surveillance cells to kill infected or malignant cells, in contrast to many other companies pursuing the production of immune-related compounds (antibodies)
Cedric Bogaert, CEO of myNEO, said: “It is very important to evaluate thoroughly against which specific parts of the Covid-19 virus we want to vaccinate. It’s going to be the difference between a vaccine that provides long-term immunity to all known forms and relatives of Covid-19 and a vaccine that only produces results in certain select populations. Fortunately, we can learn a lot from the other coronaviruses that have flared up in recent decades.”
myNEO is one of the companies that emerged from the Novalis biotech incubator fund at the end of 2018, founded by two leading entrepreneurs: Wim Van Criekinge, professor of computational biology at Ghent University and childhood friend Jan Van den Berghe, a serial entrepreneur in biotech and food industries and co-founder of Genohm and Lipa Holding.
Main image credits: Start it @kbc