Aeterna Zentaris (AEZS) Announces Evaluation and Potential Development of an Oral Prophylactic Bacterial Vaccine Against COVID-19 Through Exclusive Option Agreement with Julius-Maximilians-University

February 2, 2021 7:38 AM EST
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Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ: AEZS) (TSX: AEZS), through its wholly-owned subsidiary Aeterna Zentaris GmbH, (“Aeterna” or the “Company”), a specialty biopharmaceutical company commercializing and developing therapeutics and diagnostic tests, today announced that the Company has entered into an exclusive option agreement to evaluate a preclinical potential COVID-19 vaccine developed at the Julius-Maximilians-University Wuerzburg (the “University”), one of Germany’s leading research and teaching universities. The vaccine technology developed at the University uses a typhoid fever vaccine as a carrier strain and has the potential to be an orally active COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) live-attenuated bacterial vaccine.

Under the option agreement entered into with the University, Aeterna has the right to negotiate an exclusive worldwide license to develop this technology for the prevention of coronavirus diseases, including COVID-19. A scientific advice meeting with the German authorities at Paul-Ehrlich Institute has been scheduled by the University to discuss a roadmap towards initiating a first-in-human clinical trial. Aeterna believes that, if it is determined that there is sufficient data to advance into human clinical trials, the development program for this particular COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be abbreviated because extensive clinical safety data is already available for the underlying vaccine strain, Salmonella Typhi Ty21a. Aeterna expects to make a decision whether to exercise its option to negotiate a license for that technology by mid 2021.

“While vaccines for COVID-19 have been developed, we believe there is opportunity for improvement. That includes the potential to develop a more cost-effective oral alternative with less onerous storage requirements than the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines,” commented Dr. Klaus Paulini, Chief Executive Officer of Aeterna Zentaris. “We are optimistic that results from further studies of this new vaccination approach may offer a much needed, safe and effective immunization alternative against COVID-19. Aeterna will contribute its expertise and experience in preclinical development and GMP-compliant manufacturing to the project.”

Prof. Thomas Rudel of the University added: “Our new vaccine technology based on the live-attenuated Salmonella Typhi Ty21a strain modified to present two viral antigens, opens the opportunity for a new oral vaccination strategy which may have the potential to prevent people from infection with SARS-CoV-2. In addition, the use of dual antigens in one vaccine strain, may lower the likelihood of evolution of resistant viral mutants. We believe that a positive decision by Aeterna Zentaris to license this technology will start a fruitful collaboration with Aeterna, with the aim to begin the clinical development as soon as possible.”

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