A local company has secured $3.3m in private funding to steam ahead with a Covid-19 vaccine made with Kiwi technology.
The Covid-19 Vaccine Corporation (CVC), set up in May, has formed collaborations with the University of Auckland, Callaghan Innovation, and research institute Scion, its bid to independently develop a homegrown coronavirus agent.
The company aims to complete its first human trial of the new vaccine by the end of next year, which will cost around $8 million.
"We are not aiming to be the first vaccine on the market," said its chief executive officer, Dr Robert Feldman.
"Our mission is to produce a superior vaccine that unlike those first off the block, is not created in a rush to reach the market.
"We are taking painstaking measures that are designed to make our vaccine generate an improved response rate while being cost-efficient to produce."
CVC's intended vaccine differs from other vaccine candidates for its unique biobead technology that it licensed from New Zealand company Polybatics.
It's currently working towards making small volumes of these vaccine-producing bacteria at the University of Auckland.
Its method includes making biobeads coated with carefully chosen components of the SARS-Cov-2 virus.
The biobeads and coating are simultaneously manufactured inside bacteria which is an efficient method of production for a vaccine that the company expects to be both safe while offering broad immune coverage in humans.
These biobeads are grown at scale and purified at Scion's specialised facility, where they will be produced as a test vaccine suitable for various testing purposes.
CVC's investor group is led by software entrepreneurs Guy and Susie Haddleton, and includes Dr Stephen Strother, the Markon Trust, the CJ and JS Reeve Family Trust and Takapuna Investments.
"The backing we have from our investors is just extraordinary and so very much appreciated," Feldman said.
"We could not achieve anything without the cash that is required to progress our Covid-19 vaccine work. I feel the investors are very much part of our team."
The Government has meanwhile earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars - it won't disclose precisely how much, for commercial reasons - to get Kiwis and our Pacific neighbours as far up the line as possible.
That involves making
their own batches here. Around $3m of that funding will go to Kiwi biotech company Biocell to upgrade its facilities so it can roll out 100 million doses.
It's been suggested New Zealand might piggy-back off Australia's just-signed deal with AstraZeneca, the global company behind a front-runner vaccine candidate.
Dubbed ChAdOx1-S, it's already been shown to prompt the one-two hit of a T-cell and antibody response with a month of inoculation, and is now well into the critical and final Phase III stage.
Another Kiwi consortium has been exploring their own potential homemade candidates - such as an inactivated vaccine approach led by Otago University's Professor Miguel Quiñones-Mateu, and a recombinant spike protein vaccine being developed in Dr Davide Comoletti's Victoria University lab - for the past few months.