In June 2023 CEPI and Celestial Therapeutics announced a partnership to advance the development of Celestial’s “self-adjuvanting mRNA” vaccine platform. The partnership will aim to establish preclinical proof-of-concept for the platform which could potentially have “substantial advantages” over existing mRNA platform technologies. CEPI will provide seed funding of up to $0.71 million to advance the platform. 

RNA advances 

CEPI states that recent years have seen a rapid acceleration of RNA vaccine technology, including its validation during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“mRNA vaccines are expected to play a crucial role in preventing and controlling future outbreaks and pandemics.” 

Despite the benefits of mRNA, existing vaccines are reactogenic, generating local reactions in many patients. Furthermore, current technology creates barriers to equitable access by demanding “stringent cold-chain requirements” and “high production costs”. Thus, CEPI seeks to advance novel RNA platform technologies to make RNA vaccines more effective, easy to use, and accessible in future outbreaks. There is also an intention to “expand the application of RNA vaccine platforms to a broader range of virus families”.  

The partnership and platform 

CEPI’s funding of up to $0.71 million will support the formulation and preclinical evaluation of a prototype vaccine against chikungunya. This is one of CEPI’s priority pathogens. The project will aim to generate preclinical proof-of-concept data to support the advantages offered by the platform. The platform has a built-in adjuvant that boosts immunogenicity in a “tunable fashion”. The proprietary additive to the lipid nanoparticle (LNP) formulations reduce hyperinflammation caused by the cationic and ionisable lipids. This would potentially result in vaccines with fewer side effects.  

CEPI’s efforts to this end contribute to the wider $3.5 billion plan to “compress vaccine development timelines” to 100 days: the 100 Days Mission. Celestial’s platform technology can play a role by adding to CEPI’s vaccine library and providing a “rapid response technology” to be deployed at speed.  

Dr Ajay Gupta, President, Chairman, and CEO of Celestial is “really excited about partnering with CEPI” towards the “important venture”.  

“The world needs safer, more effective, and more durable mRNA vaccines.” 

Dr Melanie Saville, Executive Director of Vaccine Research and Development at CEPI stated that “commitment to equitable access is inscribed in CEPI’s DNA”.  

“It is core to our vision of a world in which epidemics and pandemics are no longer a threat to humanity.” 

Dr Saville believes that access to mRNA vaccines can be “improved” to “contribute to equitable access”.  

To learn more about CEPI’s work you can check out our interview with Dr Matthew Downham here. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter for more updates like this.