Artificial selection

NEC: CEPI partners with Japanese group NEC to develop a broadly protective betacoronavirus vaccine designed by artificial intelligence

April 8, 2022; OSLO, Norway/ TOKYO, Japan: CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and NEC Corporation (NEC: TSE: 6701) today announced the latest funding awarded under its $200 million program advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants and other betacoronaviruses1. CEPI will provide seed funding of up to US$4.8 million to NEC OncoImmunity AS (NOI), a Norwegian subsidiary of NEC specializing in artificial intelligence-based biotechnology, to support the initial development of widely available vaccine candidates. protectors against betacoronavirus.

NEC, through NOI, will lead a research consortium including the European Vaccine Initiative (EVI) and Oslo University Hospital to carry out a project that aims to establish preclinical proof of concept for a vaccine based on mRNA technology that protects against a wide range of betacoronaviruses. NEC will apply its experience and capabilities in artificial intelligence-based immunogen design to identify novel vaccine antigens with broad reactivity against betacoronaviruses. Core antigens will be iteratively selected and validated in preclinical studies against known betacoronaviruses that already pose significant epidemic or pandemic risk, such as SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV.

If this innovative approach proves successful, it could also be applied to the development of vaccines against other pathogens in CEPI’s portfolio, including “disease X” – unknown pathogens with pandemic potential that do not have still emerged.

CEPI is committed to the principle of equitable access to the vaccines it finances. Under the terms of the funding agreement, NEC is committed to ensuring equitable access to the results of this project, in accordance with the will of CEPI Fair Access Policy.

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    Betacoronaviruses are types of coronaviruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which have been responsible for major outbreaks in Asia and the Middle East in recent years, as well as SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

CEPI CEO Dr Richard Hatchett said:

“Coronaviruses have now proven their pandemic potential with devastating consequences, and COVID-19 will not be the last coronavirus to threaten humanity. This is why CEPI’s ambitious program to develop vaccines accessible worldwide that protect against a wide range of coronaviruses – before these pathogens emerge – is essential to global health security.

“Japan has a proud history of global health leadership and has long championed the role of research and development in the fight against emerging infectious diseases, including the essential role of the Japanese government as a founding member and investor. Major of CEPI. I am delighted that CEPI is partnering with NEC Corporation – our first collaboration with Japanese industry – to advance this innovative, AI-driven approach to vaccine design, which could help eliminate the threat of coronaviruses if it turns out to be effective.

Nobuhiro Endo, Chairman of the Board of NEC Corporation, said:

“Dealing with the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on people’s lives. The hard lessons will stay with us for decades and it is crucial that we arm ourselves against future invisible enemies. We are delighted to to partner with CEPI in this mission to develop coronavirus vaccines using our advanced AI technologies.While this partnership is a recognition of NEC’s expertise and growing contribution to healthcare, it recognizes also Japan’s leadership in advancing drug development through advanced technologies. We will continue to mobilize the resources of the NEC Group for this collaborative effort to ensure global health security.”

Richard Stratford Ph.D., Managing Director of NEC OncoImmunity AS, said:

“We are extremely honored that CEPI places its trust in the quality of our technology and the expertise of our scientific teams. Our experience with COVID-19 has taught us that an ideal vaccine must remain robust in the face of an ever-changing viral landscape. The AI ​​will assess viral regions that do not mutate rapidly and are shared between SARS, SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV and other known betacoronaviruses. I am confident that our unique approach to identifying and selecting d antigens that could elicit broader cytotoxic T cell and antibody responses are well positioned to help create broadly protective betacoronavirus vaccines that could protect the world’s population against multiple betacoronavirus threats in the long term. »

Tagaya Nobunao, Principal Deputy Minister for International Affairs, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, said:

“We are proud to see NEC become the first Japanese company to participate in CEPI’s activities to promote the development of vaccines in response and in preparation for potential pandemics, which is a common problem for all mankind. In February 2022, the Government of Japan announced a new contribution of US$300 million to CEPI over the next five years, and actively supports vaccine development in the international community. We hope that NEC will contribute to global health with the development of next-generation vaccines using AI.”

Ken Ishii, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Sciences, said:

“For the Japanese vaccine industry, NEC’s participation in this global challenge is great news. We hope it will contribute to the first countermeasures against pandemics by advancing the rapid development of safer and more effective vaccines through the new scientific approach of using AI.

Strengthening our defenses against coronaviruses

Thanks to COVID-19, coronaviruses have now demonstrated their devastating pandemic potential. The emergence of a coronavirus associating the transmissibility of COVID-19 with the lethality of SARS or MERS would be catastrophic. The development of vaccines offering broad protection against the entire betacoronavirus genus is therefore vital for our global health security. CEPI is working closely with partners to advance work in this area as quickly as possible.

The award announced today is the eighth CEPI-funded program to advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other betacoronaviruses. This work is an important part of CEPI’s next projects. 5 year planpublished in March 2021, which aims to reduce or even eliminate the future risk of pandemics and epidemics.


Notes to Editors

Taking into account today’s announcement, CEPI has to date announced funding for eight programs aimed at advancing the development of vaccines that could provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 and other variants. other betacoronaviruses:

About CEPI
CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic and civil organisations, launched in Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines against future epidemics. Prior to COVID-19, CEPI’s work focused on the development of vaccines against Ebola virus disease, Lassa virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Valley fever virus Rift and the Chikungunya virus. It has more than 20 candidate vaccines against these pathogens in development. CEPI has also invested in new platform technologies for the rapid development of vaccines against unknown pathogens (disease X).

During the current pandemic, CEPI has initiated several programs to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants with a focus on speed, scale and access. These programs build on the rapid response platforms developed by CEPI partners before the emergence of COVID-19, as well as new collaborations. The goal is to advance the clinical development of a diverse portfolio of safe and effective COVID-19 candidates and enable equitable distribution of these vaccines worldwide through COVAX.

CEPI’s five-year plan lays out a US$3.5 billion roadmap to reduce vaccine development timelines to 100 days, develop a broadly protective vaccine against COVID-19 and other betacoronaviruses, and create a ” library” of candidate vaccines for use against known and unknown pathogens. The schedule is available at

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About NEC Corporation
NEC Corporation has established itself as a leader in the integration of information technology and networks while promoting the brand statement “Orchestrating a Brighter World”. NEC enables businesses and communities to adapt to the rapid changes occurring both in society and in the marketplace, as it provides the social values ​​of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. For more information, visit NEC at

About NEC OncoImmunity AS
NEC OncoImmunity AS is an AI-driven biotech company that has developed proprietary machine learning-based software that fills key knowledge gaps in the prediction of authentic immunogenic neoantigens for personalized cancer immunotherapy, by more vaccines against infectious diseases. AI technology can be used to identify optimal neoantigen targets for truly personalized cancer vaccines and cell therapies in a clinically actionable timeframe, and also facilitate efficient patient selection for cancer immunotherapy. For more information, visit NEC OncoImmunity AS at