Catalan vaccine progresses to second phase in human trials

The Spanish Medicines Agency allows Hipra vaccine trials that began in the summer to advance

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Sánchez during a visit to the pharmaceutical company Hipra.

MADRIDThe Catalan vaccine against covid-19 has taken a step forward. The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products has authorised phase 2 of clinical trials for Hipra's vaccine against covid-19, as explained by the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez. This phase will be carried out in ten hospitals throughout Spain and will have more than 1,000 volunteers. In addition, the company, which is based in Amer (Girona) will receive a €15m grant from the Spanish government.

The first phase of Hipra vaccine's clinical trials began in early August, after the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products gave it the go-ahead. The endorsement, however, came a little later than expected, since it was expected to start in June, meaning production could start in October. However, due to the emergence of new variants of coronavirus around the world, deadlines were extended to see longer term protection, as detailed to ARA by Hospital Clínic's Lorna Leal, main investigator behind the trial.

Hipra's vaccine is based on two proteins, one corresponding to the alpha variant and the other to the beta variant, which join together to form a unique structure called a dimer. These two proteins are accompanied by a adjuvant which increases the immune response and generates protection against SARS-CoV-2 virus's S protein, as explained in summer by the Ministry of Health. This technological innovation is what differentiated the Catalan vaccine from the vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna, but also from those by AstraZeneca and Janssen.

Pedro Sánchez said that this is "extraordinary news" for science and that it "shows that Spain can be at the forefront of the response to covid". The President has spoken in the framework of the presentation of grants for cutting-edge medicine, an event in which the Ministers of Finance, Industry, Health and Science also took part. Sánchez confirmed the new grants will be approved by the Council of Ministers "in a few weeks".

The grants aim to mobilise almost €1.5bn in public and private investment. Specifically, slightly under €1bn will come from the public sector, while private investment will account for slightly under €500m. The project will be implemented between 2022 and 2023 and has four main objectives: to improve clinical research in the National Health System, modernise the industrial capacity of the sector, improve territorial cohesion between communities in terms of health services and "strengthen" the training of workers, as explained Sánchez.