The Institut Pasteur announced on Monday January 25 that it was stopping the development of its main vaccine project against Covid-19, because the first tests showed that it was less effective than expected.
This decision was taken after phase I trials (the first stage of human trials), started in August 2020: “In these studies of the first administration in humans, the candidate vaccine was well tolerated, but the induced immune responses were found to be lower than those observed in people cured of a natural infection as well as those observed with authorized vaccines’ against Covid-19, reports the French research institute in a press release.
Pasteur’s vaccine used as a base the measles vaccine, adapted to fight Covid-19. To design and distribute it, the institute joined forces with the MSD pharmaceutical laboratory (name of the American group Merck outside the United States and Canada). MSD had indeed bought last year the Austrian biotechnology company Themis, with which Pasteur has been working for several years on the development of various vaccines, including that against Covid-19.
Two other projects at the preliminary stage
In his statement, Pasteur said he was continuing his work on other Covid vaccine projects, but at a preliminary stage. “The first, which can be administered by the nasal route, has been developed with the biotechnology company TheraVectys, a member of the Institut Pasteur and specializing in the development of vaccines. The second is a DNA vaccine candidate ”, he explains. These two projects “Are now in the preclinical phase”, that is, no trials have yet been conducted on humans.
In addition, this judgment “Does not call into question the continuation of other vaccine research projects carried out in partnership with Themis-Merck-MSD”, based on the measles vaccine, says Pasteur. According to the Institute, research is underway to use this technology against other infectious diseases (Lassa fever, chikungunya).
Another French player, the Sanofi laboratory, announced in December that its vaccine was delayed and would not be ready until the end of 2021, due to worse-than-expected results.