The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the University of Oxford today announced the launch of a new project to develop prototype vaccines against Junin virus, which the groups said is part of a plan to give the scientific community a head start in developing vaccines against arenaviruses.
Junin virus, a member of the New World arenavirus family, causes Argentine hemorrhagic fever. The disease is spread by rodents and is endemic in Argentina's Pampas region, but the risk area is expanding due to encroachment into rodent habitats. Related viruses in South America include Chapare virus in Bolivia and Guanarito virus in Venezuela. Old World arenaviruses are also a threat and include the virus that causes Lassa fever, one of CEPI's priority pathogens.
For the project announced today, CEPI will provide Oxford with $25 million to complete early prototypes of viral vector and mRNA vaccines against Junin virus and improve the speed and scale-up of the ChAdOx viral vector technology. The project is part of an $80 million broader partnership between CEPI and Oxford that was announced in August to support multiple vaccine development projects to head off future epidemic threats, part of CEPI’s 100 Days Mission.
It is this wider impact that could crucially help the world develop and manufacture safe, affordable vaccines at speed.
Teresa Lambe, PhD, who is leading the project at Oxford, said in the news release that the work will set the stage for vaccine development across a broader group of arenaviruses. "It is this wider impact that could crucially help the world develop and manufacture safe, affordable vaccines at speed, preparing us for future pandemic threats."