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France’s Ose to enrol up to 400 for ‘T-cell’ coronavirus vaccine trials

By Matthias Blamont

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s Ose Immunotherapeutics will enrol up to 400 patients for the first two stages of clinical trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine it hopes will provide an extra weapon in battle against the global pandemic.

Chief executive Alexis Peyroles told Reuters Ose hoped to roll out its vaccine in Europe and the United States in 2022, potentially at least a year after the most advanced projects.

However, he said the different modus operandi of Ose’s candidate meant it could still play an important role.

More than 40 drugmakers and research groups are conducting human trials into vaccines against a virus that has led to more than 1 million deaths and roiled economies.

Most of these vaccines are primarily designed to generate so-called “neutralising antibodies” to thwart the virus. While this is seen as the most promising approach, some researchers question whether the effect will last as the virus mutates.

Ose, which focuses on oncology and autoimmune diseases, believes a subgroup of T-cells, also known as “killer cells”, can be trained to attack cells infected by a virus and recognise up to 11 of the coronavirus proteins – whereas traditional vaccines typically go after one.

“T-cells are like the infantry in our bodies,” Peyroles said, adding Ose’s vaccine could be given alone or in combination with other shots for some immuno-suppressed subjects or those suffering co-morbidities such as diabetes or cancer. “If you inject an antibodies vaccine several times to extend protection, you may end up seeing adverse reactions to the vaccine, that is where our product could also complement well.”

OSE is listed as the only company pursuing a T-cell based approach in the World Health Organization’s tally of vaccines. https://bit.ly/3dH39As

The potential vaccine is one of a handful being developed by French companies or researchers, including by Sanofi, Valneva and Osivax as well as researchers at Institut Pasteur. If the first two phases of clinical trials due to start around the end of the year – and which will help assess safety and immune response – go according to plan, Ose will aim to team up with a partner from the industry to conduct final Phase III studies from September 2021 and possibly distribute the vaccine.

Peyroles did not say if his company had started talks with potential partners, but said companies such as Sanofi, Merck & Co and AstraZeneca could be interested after they get the readouts from their own late stage trials. “We have ensured they are aware of our data,” he said of the three companies when asked if discussions were already underway. Peyroles said production of the vaccine could be scaled up easily given the availability of the ingredients and OSE’s existing supply agreements. “We are not in the biologics space with this vaccine. We have the partnerships and we can produce millions of doses.”

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris; Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Mark Potter)

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The Latest: France’s virus curfew leaves Paris streets empty

PARIS — The streets of Paris and eight other French cities were deserted on Saturday night on the first day of the government-imposed 9 p.m. curfew that is to last at least four weeks.

The measure was announced this week by French President Emmanuel Macron to curb the resurgent coronavirus as new daily infections peaked last week to over 30,000. Macron said the curfews were needed to stop hospitals from becoming overrun.

Many restaurant owners are up in arms about the move that is forcing them to close early, something that they say will devastate the industry.

In France, nearly 20 million people are covered by the curfew and eerily deserted scenes were observed in Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse as well. The curfew runs until 6 a.m. daily.

France has seen over 33,300 confirmed deaths in the pandemic, the fourth-highest death toll in Europe.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— New infections and deaths are hitting records in Russia, but Vladimir Putin’s government appears determined to avoid unpopular restrictions.

— Rural Midwest hospitals struggling to handle virus surge

— Trump plays down virus as he steps up pitch for second term

— Chancellor Angela Merkel urges Germans to unite against the virus like they did in the spring, says what Christmas and the winter looks like depends on people’s actions now.

— Iran’s virus death toll passes 30,000, the worst outbreak in the Mideast.

— Europe’s economy was just catching its breath from the sharpest recession in modern history but a resurgence in coronavirus cases will likely lead to a lean winter of job losses and bankruptcies.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

JERUSALEM — Dozens of ultra-Orthodox elementary schools and religious schools known as yeshivas opened in Israel on Sunday in violation of a government lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Israeli government only permitted nurseries and kindergartens to reopen in person on Sunday as part of country’s first phase of easing restrictions following a month-long lockdown, but schools, learning centers and universities are to conduct classes remotely.

On Saturday, a leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi — who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month — called for religious grade schools and yeshivas to reopen, despite government regulations. Police said officers were dispatched to a number of reopened schools in ultra-Orthodox towns, ordered them to send students home and issued fines.

Israel has recorded over 300,000 cases, including nearly 2,200 deaths. The country’s ultra-Orthodox community, many of whom live in densely populated neighborhoods with large families, has been disproportionately affected. Some members of the community have flouted the rules, holding weddings and mass prayers inside synagogues in conditions that help spread the disease.

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MILAN — The Italian government has approved 40 billion euros ($47 billion) in new spending to counter the pandemic’s economic blow.

The stimulus package announced Sunday includes an additional 1 billion euros to the national health care system, plus funds to

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