Arcturus and Duke-NUS announce approval of clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine candidate

Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc., a leading clinical-stage messenger RNA medicines company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of therapeutics for rare diseases and vaccines, and Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore's flagship research-intensive graduate entry medical school, today announced that the Clinical Trial Application for COVID-19 vaccine candidate LUNAR-COV19 has been approved to proceed by the Singapore Health Sciences Authority. Arcturus and Duke-NUS partnered to develop a coronavirus vaccine using Arcturus' STARR™ technology and a unique platform developed at Duke-NUS allowing rapid screening of vaccines for potential effectiveness and safety.

Arcturus and Duke-NUS will initiate human dosing of LUNAR-COV19 as soon as possible. The healthy volunteer study will evaluate several dose levels of LUNAR-COV19 in up to 108 adults, including older adults. Follow-up will be conducted to evaluate safety, tolerability and the extent and duration of the humoral and cellular immune response.

The approval of the Clinical Trial Application for LUNAR-COV19 is a critical milestone for Arcturus. We are excited to advance this promising vaccine candidate into clinical trials. Based on our preclinical data, we believe that our self-replicating mRNA-based approach may produce high rates of seroconversion and robust T-cell induction with a potential single administration, at very low doses. The LUNAR-COV19 profile is meaningfully differentiated and may facilitate the mass vaccine campaigns necessary to target hundreds of millions of individuals globally."

Joseph Payne, President and CEO of Arcturus

Professor Ooi Eng Eong, Deputy Director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS, 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 against SARS-CoV-2. We are very eager to start the first-in-human clinical trial here in Singapore and advance LUNAR-COV19 on its journey to becoming a potential commercial vaccine."

There is a tremendous global imperative to develop effective preventive measures for COVID-19 infections. We are heartened by the rapid and promising progress in our vaccine collaboration with Arcturus as we move forward into clinical trials."

Professor Thomas M. Coffman, Dean of Duke-NUS Medical School

The STARR™ Technology platform employed in LUNAR-COV19 combines self-replicating mRNA with LUNAR®, a proprietary nanoparticle delivery system optimized for mRNA molecules. The efficiency and self-replicating nature of the approach were designed to enable very low doses, and a potential single vaccine administration. Prior animal data has demonstrated robust humoral and cellular immunity elicited at doses as low as 0.2 μg of LUNAR-COV19. Additionally, Arcturus demonstrated 100% seroconversion for anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies with a very low single dose (2.0 μg).

New preclinical data demonstrate that neutralising antibody levels in response to a single administration of LUNAR-COV19 (0.2, 2.0, 10.0 μg) continue to increase over 50 days. The increasing antibody levels are attributed to the self-replicating mRNA of LUNAR-COV19. These results were obtained using a Luminex bead assay. A 1/2000 serum dilution was assayed for neutralizing IgG antibodies in the mouse serum every 10 days for 60 days post vaccination.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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