7 March 2020

UCPH Researchers Receive EU Grant for Vaccine Against Coronavirus


In collaboration with other universities and companies, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have received a grant from the EU of EUR 2.7 million. The grant will be used to develop a vaccine against the new type of coronavirus disease, Covid-19, which at the moment is spreading worldwide.

Sites of the Coronavirus outbreak various places in the world
In about three months, the new type of coronavirus that is causing Covid-19, has spread from China and infected some 100,000 people around the world.

While the disease continues to spread, Associate Professor Morten Agertoug Nielsen, Associate Professor Adam Sander and Professor Ali Salanti from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology, the University of Copenhagen, are working to develop a vaccine against the contagious virus.

Together with a consortium, they have just received a grant from the EU of EUR 2.7 million – equivalent to just over DKK 20 million – to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.

In addition to Morten Agertoug, Adam Sander and Ali Salanti, the consortium consists of researchers from the University of Tübingen, Leiden University Medical Center, Wageningen University and the companies AdaptVac and ExpreS2ion.

‘We are already well underway in the process of designing the vaccine, but it is very expensive to scale up a production and make sure that the vaccine is ready for use on humans. And it would not have been possible without this grant from the EU’, says Associate Professor Morten Agertoug.

Ideal platform

Morten Agertoug Nielsen, Ali Salanti, Adam Sander and several of their research colleagues have themselves invented and developed the vaccine technology which they are now using to create a vaccine against Covid-19.

“The platform is ideal for making an effective vaccine against Covid-19 as it enables us to take a small part of the Corona virus and put it on the surface of another not dangerous virus. When given as a vaccine the aim is that the vaccinated person reacts to the chimeric virus as though it was a coronavirus and generate an effective response” says Adam Sander.

We hope that within 12 months we can complete the first clinical trials.

Professor Ali Salanti

The researchers at UCPH have previously demonstrated proof of principle of the vaccine technology with a HER2 breast cancer vaccine.

The researchers cannot say when a possible vaccine will be ready for use on humans. However, they have an estimate of when they would like the first clinical trials to be completed:

‘We hope that within 12 months we can complete the first clinical trials. It will also be the first so-called proof of principle for our vaccine technology. It is a bridge from the laboratory to clinical development, where we have to demonstrate that the vaccine works and is safe for humans’, says Ali Salanti.

It is the University of Copenhagen that owns the patent for the vaccine technology which the researchers have developed and are working on. The preclinical trials of the vaccine will also be performed under the auspices of the University of Copenhagen.

The researchers themselves have founded the spinout company NextGen Vaccines, which together with the private biotech company ExpreS2ion has established the joint venture company AdaptVac. All three are collaborating on the development of new types of vaccines – including the vaccine against the new type of coronavirus.

The outbreak began in China in the city of Wuhan, located in Hubei Province, in December 2019. Since then, the virus has spread to several countries around the world, including countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and North and South America.

So far, there are 23 confirmed cases of people in Denmark who have been infected with Covid-19, according to the Danish Health Authority's statement on Friday, 6 March. In addition, more than 400 people have been quarantined.

Read more about recommendations and the latest news about Covid-19 on the joint website of the Danish authorities.


Associate Professor Morten Agertoug Nielsen, +45 28575489, mortenn@sund.ku.dk

Professor Ali Salanti, +45 28757676, salanti@sund.ku.dk

Communications Consultant Cecilie Krabbe, +45 93565911, cecilie.krabbe@sund.ku.dk // Communications Consultant Mathias Traczyk, +45 93565835, mathias.traczyk@sund.ku.dk