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Finnish company receives funding to develop nasal spray Covid vaccine

Rokote Laboratories Finland has received about 9 million euros to support further development and clinical trials of the product.

Seppo Ylä-Herttuala ja työryhmää
The vaccine utilises gene transfer technology, which was developed by Seppo Ylä-Herttuala’s research group. Image: Janne Järvinen / Yle

A Finnish company has received "significant" funding of about 9 million euros towards further developing a coronavirus vaccine which can be administered as a nasal spray.

Ferring Ventures SA, the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, and the Finnish Cultural Foundation have pledged a capital investment of 3.5 million euros in the company, Rokote (which means Vaccine in Finnish) Laboratories Finland.

In addition, state investment agency Business Finland has granted a loan of 5.5 million euros to the company to support further development and clinical trials of the nasal spray vaccine.

"Thanks to the funding we've secured now, we'll be able to move forward in launching manufacture of the FINCoVac vaccine candidate, and we'll be able to complete phase I and phase II clinical trials," Pasi Kemppainen from Rokote Laboratories said in a press release.

The nasal spray vaccine is based on research carried out at the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland, specifically in the laboratories of Professor of Virology Kalle Saksela, Academician Kari Alitalo, and Academy Professor Seppo Ylä-Herttuala. The project has been supported by the Academy of Finland, the Wihuri Research Institute, and the Sakari Alhopuro Foundation, and both universities are also shareholders in the company, the press release stated.

The vaccine utilises gene transfer technology, which was developed by Ylä-Herttuala’s research group and has been tested in several clinical trials using gene therapy to treat cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

The researchers are also hopeful the vaccine can respond effectively to virus variants.

"With the vaccine we are developing now, we seek to tackle the challenge posed by new virus mutations. In the future, the vaccine can serve as an easy-to-administer booster for those who have already received a traditional vaccine," Saksela said.

It may also become possible to develop vaccines against future viruses using the same method.

"The work carried out by Rokote Laboratories Finland will make use of a novel vaccine technology established here in Finland. This technology will also make us better prepared for possible future pandemics," Saksela added.

The future of the project had looked uncertain in May, when the research group said private investors were at risk of withdrawing from the endeavour after Business Finland initially said it would not cover the full cost of a clinical trial.

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