Greffex MERS CoVThe Middle East Respiratory Syndrom coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first seen in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. As of a recent WHO report, more than 64 cases of infections with MERS-CoV have been confirmed, including 38 deaths. As human-to-human transmissions have been observed the threat potential of this infectious disease may be great. “International concern about these infections is high, because it is possible for this virus to move around the world. There have been now several examples where the virus has moved from one country to another through travelers,” the WHO said of MERS. Greffex has developed a MERS vaccine just four weeks after it became obvious that MERS-CoV had moved to the WHO’s “alert phase, a phase that also includes the human bird flu viruses H5N1 and H7N9. 

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The first case of a human infection with MERS-CoV was reported on 24 September 2012 by Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. MERS-CoV is another deadly member of the coronavirus family, which includes the benign common cold viruses and the dangerous Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus. From March 2003 through July 2003, the dangerous SARS virus had caused 8,098 SARS cases in 26 countries, with 774 deaths. While principally found in the Middle East, MERS has also be seen in Europe, in patients and travellers originating in the Middle East. As clusters of human-to-human transmissions have been observed, the threat potential of this infectious disease may indeed be great. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that the MERS-CoV represents a lineage C β-coronavirus potentially originating in bats.

The Need

 As of May 2013, the World Health Organization has been warning that the MERS-CoV virus is a “threat to entire world.” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH believes that this will become reality if the virus mutates and increases its infectivity for humans. As effective therapies for MERS have not been established, a vaccine is the only avenue to protect against this infection. Presently, there is no vaccine available.

The Greffex Solution

Greffex’s GREVAX vaccine platform has been purpose-built with a high level of plasticity to deliver protection against emerging infectious threats. It incorporates the following features: potency, versatility and speed.

Potency: GREVAX™ vaccines exploit the well-established potent immunogenicity of adenovirus-based engineered vaccines. They focus immune responses to vaccine antigens as they are fully deleted of adenoviral genes and devoid of helper viruses.

Versatility: GREVAX modules allow a flexible plug-and-play design of vaccines for emerging infectious disease, including but no limited to the MERS-CoV major S surface protein.

Speed: The GREVAX vaccine platform was created to develop vaccines within about one month. It incorporates a fast vector construction time with a standardized vaccine production scheme. About a month ago the danger of MERS became apparent. Since then, Greffex was able to deliver the respective GREVAX/MERS vaccine candidate.

September 4, 2014

In the summer of 2014, Greffex was asked by the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for a sample of its vaccine for MERS-CoV so that it could run tests to evaluate the production of neutralizing antibodies.

On a very tight schedule (less than two months) Greffex produced, purified, and vaccinated animals with the GreMERSfi. Mice were immunized in a prime/boost schedule with a small dose (approx. 3×108 genome equivalents).  A standard micro-neutralization assay was used to quantify the humoral immune responses. All of the animals raised significant levels of neutralizing antibodies. 75% of the animals presented with very high antibody titers in the range of 640 to more than 2,560 (the test limit).  In light of these results, the NIAID has invited Greffex to request further trials under its sponsorship.