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INESC TEC part of European public-private partnership to accelerate the development and production of vaccines

The Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 (IMI2) mobilised more than €33M to support Inno4vac, an innovative public-private partnership to accelerate vaccine R&D timelines. This initiative will focus on the design and application of innovative and highly advanced predictive models to speed up the development and production of new vaccines. INESC TEC’s Centre for Information Systems and Computer Graphics (CSIG) Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) and the NOVA School of Science and Technology | FCT NOVA represent Portugal in this project.

22nd September 2021

Vaccination is one of the most impactful public health interventions throughout history, estimated to save the lives of 2.5 million people every year, while preventing illness and disability. However, the vaccines R&D processes are quite time-consuming, with high associated costs: on average, bringing a new vaccine to the market takes 10 years, with an associated cost of €800M. Advances in technology and data science are critical to exploring new solutions in vaccine development, as demonstrated by the fast development of vaccines against COVID-19.

Inno4vac is a new interdisciplinary project, funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 (IMI2), which aims to promote health innovation through scientific and technological progress - from the academic and biotechnology sectors, into industry. Moreover, the main objective of Inno4vac is the design of predictive biological and mathematical models of vaccine performance, accelerating the development of new vaccines

“This is the first time that Portugal participates in a project promoted by this initiative. We will have the opportunity to work with researchers and experts in the field of biotechnology, as well as industry agents, including large pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines (GSK, Sanofi Pasteur or CureVac); we'll focus on the application of new technologies to accelerate new vaccines and introduce them in the market, with much lower costs", said Artur Rocha, researcher at INESC TEC.

Inno4vac will address four major areas, in an integrated manner: 

(1) artificial intelligence, used for in-silico vaccine response and efficacy prediction; 

(2) development of a modular computational platform for in silico modelling of vaccine biomanufacturing and stability testing;

(3) introduction of new and innovative models of controlled human infection (influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and Clostridium Difficile), allowing the evaluation of vaccine efficacy, and 

(4) development of new cell-based in vitro human 3D models for predicting safe immune protection.

“The Portuguese institutions will present mathematical models for testing and evaluating vaccines, with NOVA School of Science and Technology | NEW FCT in charge of said process. INESC TEC will implement an in-silico platform, i.e., a simulation platform to create and test vaccines. We are going to transfer the knowledge of immunogenetics, from the identification of antigens and the proteins they may contain, which can inhibit the action of the virus/infection, to a platform”, said Gabriela Gomes, researcher at FCT NOVA. 

This partnership is coordinated by the European Vaccine Initiative (Germany) and supported by the Sclavo Vaccines Association (Italy), as scientific coordinators. It includes 41 partners from 11 European countries, including 37 academic institutions and SMEs, as well as GSK, Sanofi Pasteur, CureVac and Takeda as industry partners.

Artur Rocha, Ademar Aguiar, Marco Amaro Oliveira and Alexandre Costa are the CSIG researchers involved in this project.

The project received funding from the IMI2 Joint Undertaking, under grant agreement no. 115890. The initiative is also supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme and EFPIA. The project starts in September 2021 and is expected to last until February 2027.

 

The researchers mentioned in this news piece are associated with INESC TEC and UP-FEUP.