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AMED selects NEC  for design of a universal vaccine that is effective against influenza virus strains

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Mumbai: NEC selected by AMED for design of a universal vaccine that is effective against influenza virus strains

New Delhi, September 14, 2023 – NEC Corporation (NEC; TSE: 6701) has been selected to participate in a vaccine/new modality research and development project beginning in FY2023. NEC was selected following its submission of a research project titled “Development of universal vaccine design technology using computational science” in response to a public call for proposals by the Strategic Center of Biomedical Advanced Vaccine Research and Development for Preparedness and Response (SCARDA), which operates under the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).

During this research project, NEC will utilize cutting-edge AI technologies in order to identify immunogenic regions that are effective against a wide range of influenza virus strains and to design a universal vaccine.

Background

Research on universal vaccines that are broadly protective against mutating viruses are being conducted around the world in preparation for future pandemics. However, it is likely to take a considerable amount of time for universal vaccines to be put to practical use. As such, expectations are high for the utilization of AI and other computational science approaches to shorten the vaccine development period and reduce associated costs.

Specifically, in Japan, the “Strategy for Strengthening Vaccine Development and Production Systems” was formulated in June 2021 as part of a long-term national strategy to develop and produce vaccines domestically. Later, in March 2022, SCARDA was established within AMED for the purpose of strategically funding research to bolster R&D and production systems for vaccines.

With the vision of using in-house AI technology for designing universal vaccines, NEC submitted a proposal in response to SCARDA’s public appeal and was selected for the program.

NEC Research Overview

In this research project, a universal vaccine will be designed for influenza using a proprietary computer analysis technology based on several state-of-the-art AI technologies. Specifically, the genomic and genetic information of influenza viruses will be analyzed to search for and identify immunogenic regions, and verification tests will be conducted. NEC will then aim to design a vaccine based on these results within a year of the project initiation and to obtain a non-clinical PoC in the near future.

This research and development will be carried out in collaboration with Specially Appointed Professor Keiko Udaka of Kochi University.

Future Plans

This research will move forward using cutting-edge AI and computational science to identify protein regions that are effective for vaccine designs. Moreover, NEC will utilize these research results to develop and put to practical use universal vaccines in collaboration with other partners having modality in order to effectively deliver benefits to patients.

“We are pleased that our proposal has been selected by SCARDA for the development of universal vaccine design technology through industry-government-academia collaboration. Amid expectations for the early development of vaccines, computational science, including AI technologies, is extremely important and can drive meaningful advances within the pharmaceutical industry. Going forward, NEC will continue contributing to global health and the provision of better vaccines by utilizing cutting-edge technologies,” said Masamitsu Kitase, Corporate Senior VP and Head of the Healthcare and Life Science Division at NEC Corporation.

“Having worked together with NEC for many years on the development of a peptide immunotherapy for malignant tumors, I am truly looking forward to partnering with the company on the development of a universal vaccine for the influenza virus through this SCARDA program,” said Keiko Udaka, M.D., Ph.D., Specially Appointed Professor, Department of Immunology, School of Medicine, Kochi University. “I anticipate that AI and ICT will contribute to not only better vaccine development but also preemptive measures aimed at containing pandemics.”

New Delhi: NEC Corporation has been selected to participate in a vaccine/new modality research and development project beginning in FY2023. NEC was selected following its submission of a research project titled “Development of universal vaccine design technology using computational science” in response to a public call for proposals by the Strategic Center of Biomedical Advanced Vaccine Research and Development for Preparedness and Response (SCARDA), which operates under the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).

During this research project, NEC will utilize cutting-edge AI technologies in order to identify immunogenic regions that are effective against a wide range of influenza virus strains and to design a universal vaccine.

Background

Research on universal vaccines that are broadly protective against mutating viruses are being conducted around the world in preparation for future pandemics. However, it is likely to take a considerable amount of time for universal vaccines to be put to practical use. As such, expectations are high for the utilization of AI and other computational science approaches to shorten the vaccine development period and reduce associated costs.

Specifically, in Japan, the “Strategy for Strengthening Vaccine Development and Production Systems” was formulated in June 2021 as part of a long-term national strategy to develop and produce vaccines domestically. Later, in March 2022, SCARDA was established within AMED for the purpose of strategically funding research to bolster R&D and production systems for vaccines.

With the vision of using in-house AI technology for designing universal vaccines, NEC submitted a proposal in response to SCARDA’s public appeal and was selected for the program.

NEC Research Overview

In this research project, a universal vaccine will be designed for influenza using a proprietary computer analysis technology based on several state-of-the-art AI technologies. Specifically, the genomic and genetic information of influenza viruses will be analyzed to search for and identify immunogenic regions, and verification tests will be conducted. NEC will then aim to design a vaccine based on these results within a year of the project initiation and to obtain a non-clinical PoC in the near future.

This research and development will be carried out in collaboration with Specially Appointed Professor Keiko Udaka of Kochi University.

Future Plans

This research will move forward using cutting-edge AI and computational science to identify protein regions that are effective for vaccine designs. Moreover, NEC will utilize these research results to develop and put to practical use universal vaccines in collaboration with other partners having modality in order to effectively deliver benefits to patients.

“We are pleased that our proposal has been selected by SCARDA for the development of universal vaccine design technology through industry-government-academia collaboration. Amid expectations for the early development of vaccines, computational science, including AI technologies, is extremely important and can drive meaningful advances within the pharmaceutical industry. Going forward, NEC will continue contributing to global health and the provision of better vaccines by utilizing cutting-edge technologies,” said Masamitsu Kitase, Corporate Senior VP and Head of the Healthcare and Life Science Division at NEC Corporation.

“Having worked together with NEC for many years on the development of a peptide immunotherapy for malignant tumors, I am truly looking forward to partnering with the company on the development of a universal vaccine for the influenza virus through this SCARDA program,” said Keiko Udaka, M.D., Ph.D., Specially Appointed Professor, Department of Immunology, School of Medicine, Kochi University. “I anticipate that AI and ICT will contribute to not only better vaccine development but also preemptive measures aimed at containing pandemics.”

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