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Science Amplified

Initial funding opens doors for national COVID-19 vaccine strategy

New Zealand biotech Avalia Immunotherapies has been awarded bridging funding of $100,000 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund to start work on securing a COVID-19 vaccine for New Zealand, until a national vaccine strategy is in place.

The grant titled, "Addressing security of supply for a SARS-CoV-2 prophylactic vaccine for New Zealanders, now and in the future” brings together leading New Zealand institutes and companies alongside Avalia, including the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, AgResearch and South Pacific Sera.

Chief Executive Dr Shivali Gulab says the initial funding will enable work already underway across New Zealand investigating different vaccine strategies and the feasibility of local manufacturing to continue with greater certainty.

“This is a clear signal from Government that it is committed to finding a safe and effective vaccine for New Zealand and recognising New Zealand’s role in supporting global vaccine development efforts.”

Avalia Immunotherapies is a Wellington-based company that develops vaccines and immunotherapies to stimulate the body’s immune system to treat or prevent infectious diseases and cancer. It was formed in 2015 to commercialise a powerful, fully synthetic vaccine platform resulting from a joint research programme between Victoria University of Wellington’s Ferrier Research Institute, the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, University of Otago and AgResearch. Avalia’s lead programme is targeting a functional cure for chronic hepatitis B and its discovery pipeline includes vaccines for influenza, malaria and cancer.

Dr Gulab says this MBIE funding will go towards initial research and preparations for the development, testing and manufacture of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for New Zealand, with a key focus on understanding vaccines being developed internationally.

“This includes research already underway at the University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington and Malaghan Institute of Medical Research into an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine virus, a recombinant spike protein vaccine and into New Zealand’s proprietary adjuvant and vaccine technologies, including Avalia’s fully synthetic vaccine platform.”

Professor Graham Le Gros from the Malaghan Institute says Avalia Immunotherapies’ expertise and deep connections with the science community and industry – both locally and internationally – mean it is well placed to play a leading role in helping ensure New Zealand gets a safe and effective vaccine at the earliest opportunity.

“This initial funding will help maintain the momentum already building across New Zealand and plug us in to key developments globally.”

May, 2020 –


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