Using a Cancer Therapy Platform as a Potential COVID-19 Vaccine

November 25, 2020
John Parkinson

OncoSec recently received an FDA IND clearance to begin a phase 1 trial.

Biotech company OncoSec has secured an IND clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin a phase 1 trial to study their CORVax12 vaccine. This is the first DNA vaccine candidate for COVID-19 to deliver the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 and the immune-activating cytokine interleukin 12 (IL-12).

The vaccine combines OncoSec’s immuno-stimulant IL-12 expression platform, TAVO (tavokinogene telseplasmid), with NIH’s DNA-encodable stabilized trimeric SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein to treat COVID-19.

The CORVax vaccine is designed to drive a coordinated long-term anti-viral response, capable of activating both cellular and humoral immune responses. The company’s TAVO IL-12 expression platform stimulates immunity in immunocompromised cancer settings and could be particularly relevant for patients at highest risk from COVID-19.

The Providence Cancer Center in Oregon is collaborating with OncoSec, and the former will be a trial site. Bernard Fox, PhD, chief, Laboratory of Molecular and Tumor Immunology, Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence Portland Medical Center is the principal investigator for the trial.

“I think one of the advantages we bring to the trial from a cancer perspective is we are used to doing sophisticated immunological monitoring, and we have standards in place that have been broadly accepted,” Fox stated. 

Fox spoke to Contagion® recently about the vaccine’s platform, how adding IL-12 can potentially help augment responses in older patients, the trial’s parameters and insights on long-term immunity.