University of Helsinki: Finnish coronavirus vaccine developer Rokote Laboratories Finland secures significant funding

Ferring Ventures SA, Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, and the Finnish Cultural Foundation have made a capital investment of 3.5 million euros in Rokote Laboratories Finland. In addition, Business Finland has granted a 5.5-million-euro loan to the company to support further development and clinical trials of the company’s coronavirus vaccine.

“Thanks to the funding we’ve secured now, we’ll be able to move forward in launching manufacture of the FINCoVac vaccine candidate, and we’ll be able to complete phase I and phase II clinical trials,” Mr Pasi Kemppainen from Rokote Laboratories Ltd. says.

The funded coronavirus vaccine is based on research carried out at the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland, namely in the laboratories of Professor of Virology Kalle Saksela, Academician Kari Alitalo, and Academy Professor Seppo Ylä-Herttuala. This research has been supported by the Academy of Finland, the Wihuri Research Institute, and the Sakari Alhopuro Foundation. Both universities are also shareholders in the company.

The vaccine is based on gene transfer technology developed by Ylä-Herttuala’s research group, and the technology has already been successfully used in several clinical trials using gene therapy to treat cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

“The vaccine uses a safe adenovirus carrier that contains a cloned DNA strand of the SARS-Cov-2 virus’s S protein. This can be used to program nasopharyngeal cells to produce the surface protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which, in turn, produces a response to the vaccine. There are no other parts of the virus in the vaccine,” Ylä-Herttuala says.

Easily modifiable vaccine helps to tackle virus mutations
The genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is expected to continue mutating rapidly.

“With the vaccine we are developing now, we seek to tackle the challenge posed by new virus mutations. In the future, the vaccine can serve as an easy-to-administer booster for those who have already received a traditional vaccine,” Saksela says.

Later on, the same method can also be used to develop vaccines against other viruses.

“The work carried out by Rokote Laboratories Finland Ltd. will make the use of a novel vaccine technology established here in Finland. This technology will also make us better prepared for possible future pandemics,” Saksela points out.

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