Bavarian Nordic, a Danish biotech firm, has faced a crossroads that shines a light on the ever-evolving nature of the pandemic. With a heavy heart, the company has chosen to drop its experimental Phase III COVID-19 booster, ABNCov2, following clinical data that has raised questions about its effectiveness against the formidable new variants of concern.
ABNCov2, Bavarian Nordic’s attempt to bolster our defenses against COVID-19, initially showed promise. It demonstrated levels of neutralizing antibodies on par with Pfizer’s Comirnaty when facing off against the original COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2. However, the plot thickened when it came to the rapidly emerging variants, like XBB.1.5, which have now taken center stage in the global COVID-19 narrative.
Here’s where it gets intriguing. Bavarian Nordic’s decision not to pursue commercialization of ABNCov2 was driven by the realization that the landscape has shifted. New variants of concern have reshaped the playing field, and the data aligns with the stance of prominent regulators like the FDA, EMA, and WHO. These authorities advocate for variant-specific COVID-19 vaccines, akin to the annual flu shots we’re accustomed to. Unfortunately, ABNCov2 couldn’t keep pace with this seasonal adaptation requirement, leading to the conclusion that it’s no longer a viable commercial venture for Bavarian Nordic.
ABNCov2’s tale may have taken an unexpected turn, but Bavarian Nordic is far from throwing in the towel. They’ve been nurturing a capsid virus-like particle (cVLP) platform-based vaccine, and while it might not be the swift solution to emerging variants, it still holds promise. The data and insights garnered from ABNCov2’s development may serve as a cornerstone for the cVLP platform’s potential role in future pandemics. The company is keen to collaborate with authorities to harness these valuable lessons.
“The world is in a different place now, and COVID-19 is no longer a public health crisis. However, as the disease continues to evolve, innovations in vaccine development are still warranted. We have generated robust data, so far demonstrating a favorable safety profile for the vaccine along with the ability to induce a strong and persistent immune response against earlier and more virulent strains, confirming the viability of the cVLP platform. We would like to thank our partners and everyone taking part in the Phase 3 study, and not least the Danish Ministry of Health for their support in this development that has validated a new vaccine platform for future pandemics.”
– Paul Chaplin, President and CEO of Bavarian Nordic
This development unfolds against the backdrop of a race among vaccine makers to adapt to the shifting sands of the pandemic. Pfizer’s Comirnaty, for instance, has just secured approval from the EU, offering protection against the XBB.1.5 variant. Novavax, another player in this high-stakes game, has shown promise in confronting not only XBB.1.5 but also the emerging XBB.1.16.6 variant. Although Novavax faced delays in FDA approval, it’s aiming to make its mark as a formidable contender.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 frontrunners, Pfizer and Moderna, are flexing their scientific muscle to address the ever-changing landscape. Both companies are gearing up for the fall vaccination season with updated vaccines tailored to combat the new variants. Their commitment to adaptability highlights the relentless pursuit of effective solutions in the battle against COVID-19.
Bavarian Nordic’s decision serves as a poignant reminder of the dynamic nature of the pandemic. It’s a chapter that speaks to the resilience of scientific exploration and the challenges of keeping pace with an ever-mutating virus. As we look ahead, the saga of COVID-19 continues, with innovators like Bavarian Nordic leading the charge to navigate the twists and turns of this formidable foe.