By Abigail Klein Leichman

Current COVID-19 vaccines are delivered via a shot in the arm — nobody’s favorite way to receive any medication — and must be kept at ultracold temperatures.

Oravax Medical, a subsidiary of Israel’s Oramed Pharmaceuticals, has a vaccine candidate that is given by mouth and doesn’t require freezer storage.

On Nov. 18, Oravax announced a partnership with Genomma Lab Internacional in Mexico to develop the vaccine for use in Latin America initially.

Oravax’s oral VLP vaccine candidate targets three SARS-CoV-2 virus surface proteins, including proteins less susceptible to mutation, thus making the oral vaccine potentially more effective against current and future variants of the coronavirus.

If approved, it would be used either as a standalone or as a booster for previously vaccinated individuals. The oral method of administration may result in greater safety by reducing potential side effects.

The two public companies agreed to a $20 million share swap, and Genomma Lab also committed to participate in a future investment in Oravax.

“We are very excited to be partnering with Genomma. The synergies between our respective companies’ core competencies made it clear that the combination of our particular strengths represents a unique and significant opportunity,” said Nadav Kidron, CEO of Oramed and chairman of Oravax.

“The winning combination of Oravax’s cutting edge science and Genomma’s exceptional sales and distribution network throughout Mexico and Latin America, as well as their local regulatory expertise, results in a powerful venture.”

Rodrigo Herrera, chairman of Genomma Lab, said, “We are already beginning to prepare for a Phase 2 trial immediately upon successful completion of the Phase 1 trial of the oral vaccine in South Africa. We are excited to play a pivotal role in bringing this revolutionary solution to a vaccine market of an estimated 662 million Latin Americans in 20 countries.”

In other COVID-related news announced this month, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations is granting $4.3 million to Israel’s MigVax to advance development of COVID-19 vaccines suitable for use in low- and middle-income countries. CEPI, headquartered in Norway, also is funding a similar project at the University of Saskatchewan.

Both projects aim to establish preclinical proof of concept for “variant-proof” vaccines that protect against existing and new SARS-CoV-2 variants. The vaccine platforms may also be applicable for developing vaccines that are protective against a broad range of beta coronaviruses, as well as unknown pathogens with pandemic potential that have yet to emerge.
Produced in association with Israel21C.

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