Living History: Our Role in Global Scientific Collaboration for SARS-CoV-2

In this recent webinar, Bassam Hallis, Ph.D., Head of Preclinical Development for Public Health England, and Luc Gagnon, VP of Vaccine Sciences for Nexelis, discuss pandemic preparedness and response to SARS-CoV-2 and beyond.  Their point of view is as researchers involved in the paradigm shift in the biopharmaceutical industry.

How did the world develop a commercially available vaccine in 314 days?

“The work really came together (on SARS-CoV-2) when we realized two sets of capabilities – the BSL-3 high-containment capabilities at Public Health England and the high-throughput testing that is available at Nexelis. We’ve developed a toolbox of validated assays to support a number of policy decisions and vaccine companies in their development and submission to regulate.” – Bassam Hallis, Ph.D.

During the webinar, the expert panelists unveil a behind-the-scenes look from the point of view of a contract research organization at how the biopharmaceutical industry worked together in an unprecedented push for rapid vaccine development.  Nexelis and Public Health England contributed and collaborated in this momentous task.

As illustrated by our work contributing to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, each shares insight into the science behind vaccine development, from proper use of the gold standard wild-type neutralization assay to how and why to use surrogate pseudoparticle neutralization assays (PNA). The webinar includes how to generate a pseudoparticle, and the correlation studies performed to support adoption of the PNA assay for vaccine and antiviral development. This leads to an explanation of optimizing binding assays for generating key antigens to assess the humoral response.

“We’re deploying a semi-automated system so that the same assessment will be performed within the same plate with the same analyst to reduce the variability and to have the greatest possible conversion between different types of pseudoparticles. We’re working closely with Public Health England to not only have different assays that compare to each other but to help each other on automation as well to determine the best solution.” – Luc Gagnon, Ph.D.

As the pandemic continues to present challenges across the globe, Variants of Concern (VOCs) have gained the attention of the vaccine industry. The speakers explain the difference between what are considered wild-type strains and VOCs, and how to account for VOCs in determining drug and vaccine efficacy.

Overall, the webinar highlights a talented team of scientists in a private-public partnership, and the challenges, scientific techniques, and approaches used to create a new gold standard for vaccine and antiviral assay development in less than 12 months.

Watch the recorded webinar here