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Future of Finland's Covid nasal spray vaccine uncertain

State support for a Finnish Covid nasal spray comes up short.

Seppo Ylä-Herttuala ja työryhmää
Finnish nasal spray vaccine firm continues its search for investors. Image: Janne Järvinen / Yle

A Finnish Covid vaccine company says it risks private investors withdrawing from the endeavour after the state investment agency Business Finland said it would not cover the full cost of a clinical trial.

In April, Rokote Laboratories Finland, the company that developed the vaccine, applied for a grant from the public financier that would have covered 80 percent of the costs of the vaccine’s test phases.

Private funders had tentatively agreed to join the project if the state would ensure that clinical trials would not be interrupted due to lack of funding. That said, the company has not yet signed contracts with private financiers.

Chicken and egg

Now Professor Kalle Saksela, who heads the research team, said he has learned that Business Finland does not have a programme available under which funding could be administered as a grant. Like any other start-up, Rokote Laboratories Finland can apply for a loan from Business Finland, backed by private capital it has already acquired elsewhere.

"This is a big disappointment. If the state rescinds its promise, the timing of the entire vaccine project will have to be reconsidered," Saksela said.

Preparations for clinical trials in humans have already begun. The partner companies have invested money in the trials, but the company's coffers are now empty, making it impossible to launch tests.

The Ministry of Employment and the Economy (MEE) has not been directly in contact with the vaccine team regarding the new guidelines it has reported to MOT regarding this matter.

The Finnish research team claims their nasal spray vaccine works on different variants of the coronavirus. They said they had aimed to employ the spray in Finland's second or third round of vaccinations against Covid.

The University of Helsinki and Eastern Finland have been developing the nasal spray vaccine for more than a year. To date, the project has been funded with grants totalling almost 3 million euros from the Academy of Finland and the Sakari Alhopuro Foundation.

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