U.S. Company That Has an Agreement With Israel Reports Progress on COVID Vaccine

Arcturus announces its coronavirus vaccine will be ready by the first quarter of 2021 ■ Singapore and Israel are currently its two only customers

Sagi Cohen
Sagi Cohen
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A scientist at RNA medicines company Arcturus Therapeutics research a vaccine for the coronavirus at a laboratory in San Diego, California, U.S., March 17, 2020.
A scientist at RNA medicines company Arcturus Therapeutics research a vaccine for the coronavirus at a laboratory in San Diego, California, U.S., March 17, 2020. Credit: Bing Guan / REUTERS
Sagi Cohen
Sagi Cohen

Arcturus Therapeutics, a U.S. biotech company with which Israel has signed an agreement to purchase coronavirus vaccines, announced Monday preliminary “positive” results in the first and second phases of clinical trials.

Of the 106 trial participants, 78 received the vaccine and 28 received a placebo. Preliminary results indicated an increase in antibody levels in subjects who received the vaccine, with no serious side effects.

Despite the optimistic announcement, the vaccine is still in the early stages.

While the terms of Israel’s contract with Arcturus have not been publicized, it is contingent on the vaccine development succeeding and meeting certain milestones.

Arcturus says it expects to begin delivering the vaccine in the first quarter of 2021.

Arcturus’ vaccine is being developed in partnership with a research institute in Singapore.

Arcturus Chief Development Officer, Steve Hughes, said the company was pleased with the initial results, as they showed that the vaccine was safe and provoked an immune response at a relatively low dose.

The company has received up to $220 million in funding from Singapore, and is preparing the groundwork to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses within the next year and a half. The funding will enable it to meet its obligations to Israel and Singapore, as well as future contracts, it stated.

The San Diego-based Arcturus is a relatively small company, with 90 employees, and so far it has only two customers for the vaccine it is developing: Israel and Singapore. The company merged with Israeli company Alcobra in 2017. Arcturus currently has no marketable products and no experience in producing and distributing vaccines on a wide scale.

Arcturus is working on a vaccine based on RNA technology, similar to the vaccine being developed by Moderna – the other company with which Israel has signed a purchase contract – and by Pfizer, which this week reported that its Phase 3 three trial had surpassed expectations.

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