Elicio Therapeutics enters Covid-19 vaccine race, reports success in pre-clinical trials

Boston company partially owned by Clal Biotechnology Industries plans to advance to clinical trials in Q4

Sophie Shulman 14:3919.08.20
A new company has emerged in the race for the Covid-19 vaccine and it has an Israeli connection. Boston-based Elicio Therapeutics, which is partially owned (20%) by TASE-traded Clal Biotechnology Industries (CBI) published positive results in pre-clinical trials of its ELI-005 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, driving the price of CBI stock up more than 20% on Wednesday.


Elicio, which was born out of MIT, announced that it planned to begin clinical trials on humans in the fourth quarter of this year. In its filing to the TASE, CBI said Elicio was currently in talks with several large pharmaceutical companies and government agencies over collaborations in its ongoing experiments.


Several companies are competing for approval for their Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: Reuters Several companies are competing for approval for their Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: Reuters
In its trials, Elicio, which specializes in amphiphilic vaccines, presented clearer results than those presented in the corresponding stages by other companies that have already advanced to clinical trials, according to the filing. The standout result is not only its ability to formulate a high rate of antibodies but to formate T-cells, which are the immune system cells responsible for “remembering” the virus, reducing the need for frequent booster shots.


According to Elicio’s official announcement, the T-cell reactions were 25 times stronger than those registered by companies currently carrying out clinical trials and the antibody levels were 265 times higher than those found in the blood of healed coronavirus patients.


Elicio’s vaccine is similar in its activation method to the vaccine being developed by pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, which is at the clinical trial stage. The method is based on combining a portion of the viral protein with an adjuvant, an immunological agent that improves the immune response of a vaccine.


The process of vaccine development up until the stage of gaining FDA approval is similar to the drug approval process. In the pre-clinical trials, the vaccine is tested on animals and after it is proven to be safe, human trials get started. Human trials are made of three stages: the first, which is conducted on a small sample of people is mainly done to prove its safety, the second, which also usually includes hundreds of people at most, tests for effectiveness, and the third and most crucial, which includes thousands of subjects, tests the ability to create antibodies to prevent contagion.


Elicio is one of 160 companies that are currently working hard to produce the much-coveted approved vaccine. So far only five have reached advanced clinical trials and aim to introduce a vaccine to market as early as the end of the year, or early 2021.


Founded in 2014, Elicio Therapeutics has so far raised $48 million, $7 million of it from CBI, which is run by Ofer Gonen. It employs 20 people. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, it was focusing on developing a vaccine against Malaria, receiving funding from the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, as well as a vaccine for cancer. It has yet to receive FDA approval for its products.


CBI is an Israeli life sciences investment company controlled by Soviet-born businessman Len Blavatnik.