January 23, 2020 / 3:52 PM / 24 days ago

UPDATE 1-Work to start on three possible China virus vaccines - epidemic response group

(Adds details, background)

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Three separate research teams backed by a global coalition set up to fight epidemic diseases are to start work on developing potential vaccines against the new coronavirus that has caused a disease outbreak in China.

Developing new vaccines has traditionally taken up to a decade, but the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is funding two of the projects and co-funding the third, said the aim now is to work much faster.

Its plan is to have at least one potential vaccine in clinical trials by June, offering the chance that a shot could fully developed, tested and approved for use in a year.

The research will be conducted by drug and vaccine developer Moderna working with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; the U.S. firm Inovio Pharma ; and a team at the University of Queensland, Australia.

The new coronavirus, known as nCoV-2019, first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan but cases have been detected as far away as the United States. It has killed 17 people and infected more than 600.

Each of the three projects will test a distinct scientific approach to developing a preventative vaccine.

"Our aspiration with these technologies is to bring a new pathogen from gene sequence to clinical testing in 16 weeks," said Richard Hatchett, CEPI's chief executive.

"There are no guarantees of success, but we hope this work could provide a significant and important step forward in developing a vaccine for this disease."

CEPI's hope is to enable vaccine platform technology that has already been advanced for other infectious diseases such as MERS and Ebola to be used to hasten progress, Hatchett said.

Vaccine platforms are based on using the same fundamental components as a framework, and adapting them for use against different pathogens by inserting new gene sequences.

Infectious disease epidemics such as Ebola outbreaks in Africa, the Zika outbreak that spread from Brazil, and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, are sporadic, unpredictable and fast-moving. Yet developing vaccines to combat them has traditionally taken up to 10 years or more.

CEPI was set up at the start of 2017 with the aim of dramatically speeding up the process of developing of vaccines against new and unknown diseases.

Reporting by Kate Kelland Editing by Alex Richardson and Frances Kerry

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