Scancell to initiate development of novel DNA vaccine against COVID-19

Scancell Holdings plc, the developer of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, announces that it has initiated a research programme to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The project will be led by Professor Lindy Durrant, Chief Scientific Officer and Professor of Cancer Immunotherapy at the University of Nottingham, in collaboration with scientists in the newly established Centre for Research on Global Virus Infections and the new Biodiscovery Institute at the University of Nottingham, and Nottingham Trent University.

Scancell’s DNA vaccines target dendritic cells to stimulate high avidity T cells that survey and destroy diseased cells. This approach was highly successful with Scancell’s lead ImmunoBody® cancer vaccine, SCIB1, which was safely administered to patients with malignant melanoma, and mediated excellent 5-year survival in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial. Scancell’s aim is to utilise its proven clinical expertise in cancer to produce a simple, safe, cost-effective and scalable vaccine to induce both durable T cell responses and virus neutralising antibodies (VNAbs) against COVID-19. As research data emerges, it is becoming increasingly clear that the induction of potent and activated T cells may play a critical role in the development of long-term immunity and clearance of virus-infected cells. Although other vaccines may reach the clinic earlier, the Company believes its combined T cell and antibody approach should give more potent and long-lasting responses, ultimately leading to better protection.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. Scancell’s DNA vaccine will target the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein and the key receptor-binding domain of the spike (S) protein to generate both T cell responses and VNAbs against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The N protein is highly conserved amongst coronaviruses; therefore, this new vaccine has the potential to generate protection not only against SARS-CoV-2, but also against new strains of coronavirus that may arise in the future.

Initial research is underway and Scancell anticipates initiating a Phase 1 clinical trial (“COVIDITY”) in Q1 2021, subject to funding. The Company is actively seeking development partners and additional funding (including non-dilutive funding from governments and global institutions) to support the rapid development of this vaccine.

Professor Lindy Durrant, Chief Scientific Officer, Scancell, commented:

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, Scancell has been evaluating how it can best contribute its expertise and resources to help in the global response. Vaccines are the long-term solution and we believe our combined high avidity T cell and neutralising antibody approach has the potential to produce a second-generation vaccine that will generate an effective and durable immune response to COVID-19.”