In a partnership announced in July 2023, CEPI and the Houston Methodist Research Institute (HMRI) will combine cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology with established techniques to accelerate vaccine development for candidates against novel viral threats, or Disease X. HMRI will lead a consortium that unites experts from Argonne National Laboratory, J Craig Venter Research Institute, La Jolla Insitute, The University of Texas Medical Branch, and The University of Texas, Austin. CEPI is contributing up to $4.98 million.
Identifying future threats
AI experts will use machine-learning approaches to advance analysis of the structures of viruses from priority viral families, from which the next Disease X is likely to emerge. AI will be used to identify epitopes from paramyxoviruses and arenaviruses. Teams at HMRI, The University of Texas, Austin, La Jolla Institute, and Argonne National Laboratory will optimise the design of potential epitopes before the University of Texas Medical Branch validates the immunogenicity of potential vaccine candidates using “established preclinical models”.
The Vaccine Library
This latest collaboration from CEPI continues the effort towards the 100 Days Mission, which is the goal of preparing for pandemics with vaccine candidates ready to go within 100 days of pathogen identification. CEPI describes the establishment of a global ‘Vaccine Library’ as a “critical enabler” of this mission.
CEPI hopes to store AI-generated and lab-tested and verified antigen designs in the Vaccine Library. These could be taken “off the shelf” in an outbreak situation. When the virus’ gene sequence is known, these designs could be inserted into an appropriate platform to start vaccine production.
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, comments that stopping future pandemic threats will require “rapid development” of vaccines, for which the Vaccine Library will be “crucial”.
“It will require coordinated investments in countermeasure development and, in outbreak situations, rapid data sharing.”
Dr Hatchett suggests that CEPI is making “key investments” to help the world solve vaccine design challenges in advance of an outbreak.
“Advances in AI technology are making this possible by revolutionising how we identify potential vaccine targets, laying the foundations for a library of AI-generated antigen designs ready to use against future pandemic threats.”