Israel signs for 4 million doses of new coronavirus vaccine candidate

Arcturus' vaccine would potentially require only one dose because of its replicating effect. All others in development currently require at least two doses.

Bottles labeled "Vaccine" stand near medical syringe in front of "Coronavirus COVID-19" display (illustrative) (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
Bottles labeled "Vaccine" stand near medical syringe in front of "Coronavirus COVID-19" display (illustrative)
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
Israel signed the first part of an agreement with California-based Arcturus to have first access to its novel coronavirus vaccine.
“The health minister and the staff of his office, in cooperation with the National Security Council, are continually striving to ensure there will be vaccinations available for the residents of Israel,” the Health Ministry said in a statement Friday morning.
The deal signed with Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc. – one of America’s leading clinical-stage messenger RNA medicines companies – is to receive some four million doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, LUNAR-COV-19.
For now, the ministry has signed a binding term sheet. The parties intend to finalize a comprehensive supply agreement within 30 days.
Israel media reported that Israel is meant to receive 4 million doses.
“We are very pleased to support Israel’s vaccination strategy,” said Arcturus president and CEO Joseph Payne.
Arcturus president and CEO Joseph Payne (Courtesy)Arcturus president and CEO Joseph Payne (Courtesy)
A release explained that Israel’s receipt of the vaccine is contingent upon achievement of near term clinical and regulatory milestones and other conditions to be set forth in the definitive supply agreement. The Health Ministry would be responsible for administering the vaccine.
The company is preparing to carry out a Phase 1/2 clinical trial through Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School to test the safety, side effects and best dose of the new vaccine. If the trial proceeds as expected, the vaccine will be the first of its kind to get this far.
Already, the vaccine has been tested on mice, rats, rabbits and pigs to 100% success rate.
It is expected that 108 people will participate in the trial, including the elderly.
Payne told The Jerusalem Post that the big differentiator between his company’s vaccine and others in development is that it potentially requires only one dose because of its replicating effect. Most others (including the one being tested by Moderna) require two doses, an initial injection and a booster shot.
Last month, Israel signed a deal to buy a supply of Moderna’s hopeful COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed mRNA-1273.
Arcturus has been in the vaccine space for several years. It has close ties with Israel in that it merged with Israel’s Alcobra Ltd. in 2017. There are still a handful of Israelis working among the company’s staff of 120 people.
“The Health Ministry will continue to work to support the development of vaccines in Israel by Israel Institute for Biological Research and MIGAL in parallel with efforts to purchase vaccines from other international companies,” the ministry concluded.

Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.