Thursday, February 27, 2020
Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced today a strategic collaboration with Southern Research to support the development of a vaccine, TNX-1800* (live modified horsepox virus vaccine for percutaneous administration) to protect against the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, based on Tonix’s proprietary horsepox vaccine platform. Tonix is developing TNX-801 (live horsepox virus vaccine for percutaneous administration) as a potential smallpox preventing vaccine for the U.S. strategic national stockpile and as a monkeypox preventing vaccine. The Company believes that its proprietary horsepox virus has the potential to serve as a vector for vaccines to protect against other infectious agents. The new research collaboration will develop and test a potential horsepox vaccine that expresses protein from the virus that causes COVID to protect against the disease.
There are currently no vaccines to protect against COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2 and is reportedly highly contagious. COVID-19 is associated with a significant rate of mortality.
Under the terms of the research collaboration, Southern Research will test one or more vaccine constructs in the Tonix horsepox vector that express one or more proteins or protein fragments from the virus that causes COVID-19. The first such potential vaccine is TNX-1800. The collaboration seeks to leverage Tonix’s horsepox vaccine technology that was originally developed to protect against smallpox but has capabilities as a vector for other infectious diseases. Tonix has previously reported that horsepox has efficacy as a vaccine and good tolerability in mice1 and cynomolgus macaques2. Horsepox is closely related to vaccinia vaccines, which are a group of orthopoxviruses that have been used as smallpox vaccines.
Dr. Seth Lederman, CEO of Tonix Pharmaceuticals said, “Although vaccinia vectors are available, different orthopoxvirus strains may behave differently as vectors in part because of their different repertoire of genes that modulate immune responses and host range. Potential advantages of horsepox are the strong immunogenicity we observed in macaques and mice with good tolerability. The protein synthesis connected with a replicating live virus vaccine provides direct antigen presentation, which can stimulate cellular immunity in addition to humoral immunity.” Dr. Lederman was formerly an associate professor at Columbia University and made significant original contributions to immunology.
Scott Goebel, a senior scientist at Southern Research and principal investigator of the project said, “We look forward to this collaboration to advance a potential COVID-19 vaccine.” Mr. Goebel has previously worked on vaccinia and orthopoxvirus vaccines for other conditions and has studied coronaviruses.