The rapid development of an effective and safe vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is a top priority for the biotech company Swiss Rockets AG, which is why it has acquired the DNA synthesis technology from the ETH Zurich spin-off Gigabases Switzerland AG. Together with Gigabases and a consortium of experts from several leading Swiss universities and institutes, Swiss Rockets, through its newly established subsidiary RocketVax will leverage the technology to develop a next-generation of SARS-CoV-2 virus vaccines.
Novel methods are being utilized in the production of the active ingredient. The gene sequence of the desired artificial viral genome, optimal for an immune response, is designed using high computing power and artificial intelligence. The designed genome lacks one essential virus element needed for replication. This element is provided by a human producer cell, yielding complete virus particles in the laboratory. The “artificial virus” can be made in large quantities for use as a vaccine. This technology allows the rapid production of various genome sequences, enabling vaccine production with one or mixtures of viral sequences. It also allows for incorporation of any relevant SARS-CoV-2 mutations that may arise in the future.
Thomas Klimkait, Virologist at the University of Basel and Project Leader of Preclinical Development at RocketVax, explains: “As an innovative next-generation vaccine, RocketVax is developing a complete but ‘replication blocked’ SARS-CoV-2 virus. It presents all essential protein components in the virus particle to the human immune system.”
Infrastructure and support
RocketVax provides the necessary infrastructure with office and laboratory space as an incubator in cooperation with the Canton of Basel-City and the University of Basel. This provides RocketVax with access to the necessary biosafety laboratory. Swiss Rockets also acts as an accelerator by investing additional funds in the development of RocketVax in the medium term and is responsible for supporting RocketVax in national and international financing rounds. Furthermore, management expertise is provided by Swiss Rockets, together with leading Swiss and international experts.
An experienced team of scientists and managers
The founder and CEO of Swiss Rockets AG is Vladimir Cmiljanovic. RocketVax is supported by a team of leading scientists: Marcel Tanner, Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology, Medical Parasitology and Public Health and former Director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Claudia Daubenberger, Head of Clinical Immunology at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Thomas Klimkait, the virologist at the University of Basel, Adrian Egli, Head of Molecular Verification and Sequencing at the University Hospital Basel, Matthias Christen, CEO of Gigabases Switzerland AG, Beat Christen, Co-Founder of Gigabases Switzerland AG, Bernd Giese from the University of Fribourg and one of the World's leading chemists, and Christian Münz, Co-head of the Institute for Experimental Immunology at the University of Zurich.