Swedish biotech to create ‘super vaccine’ for coronavirus with Karolinska Institute


Collaboration has become a powerful weapon in the fightback against Covid-19. The leading biotechnology company Cobra Biologics, which has one production facility in Sweden and one in the UK, is a case in point.

Working jointly with Sweden’s renowned medical university Karolinska Institute, Cobra Biologics’ plant in Matfors, northern Sweden, is preparing to manufacture a pilot series of a unique DNA-based ‘super vaccine’ for coronavirus.

Lars Fahlander, Site Manager, Cobra Biologics, comments:

“There are very few suppliers worldwide with our expertise in plasmid DNA that can offer this type of production capacity. Sweden’s life science sector has both highly skilled specialists and advanced technologies.”

European Union finds perfect co-lab partners

Cobra Biologics together with five other partners led by Karolinska Institute were given the assignment to develop a coronavirus vaccine at record speed by the EU and Horizon 2020, which provided EUR 3 million of emergency funding. The project is part of the OPENCORONA consortium which supports global efforts to tackle the pandemic.

This Covid-19 vaccine will be a genetically engineered DNA vaccine and will be delivered to the patient to generate a viral antigen on which the immune system then reacts. The advantage of a DNA vaccine is that the immune response will be induced in a way that is believed to be highly effective, safe and cost efficient. The vaccine is scheduled for human trials during 2021.

Peter Coleman, Chief Executive at Cobra Biologics, says:

“The partners within the OPENCORONA consortium are all industry experts, with the expertise, track record and belief to deliver a successful outcome. Cobra is privileged to have been invited to participate and contribute to the fight against Covid-19, as this virus continues to impact the globe exponentially.”

Sweden at the forefront

Sweden, which invests about 3.3 per cent of the country’s GDP in R&D, is at the forefront of scientific work to combat the coronavirus. Other recent initiatives include ‘Hack the Crisis’, an official hackathon organised by the Swedish Government on April 3-6 where programmers were invited to help companies and healthcare workers use data in smarter ways to improve Covid-19 response.

Meanwhile, Cobra Biologics is well equipped to trial and scale up DNA vaccine production. The company invested EUR 20 million at its Swedish plant in 2019 to ramp up its large-scale capacity, which includes plans to increase the manufacturing capacity tenfold for DNA-based therapies.

During preparations to expand the facility, Cobra Biologics received support from Business Sweden, the Swedish Trade and Invest Council.

Cecilia Leiram, Acting Manager, Invest Operations, Business Sweden, comments:

“We are pleased to see that Cobra Biologics’ site in Matfors is playing an important role in facilitating this critical vaccine project. We help international investors who often recognise not just the value of Sweden’s advanced skills but also its dynamic innovation system.”

Ylva Berg, CEO at Business Sweden, adds:

“Combining talents and pooling expertise is crucial as we face acute global problems, especially in this time of crisis. Sweden offers a business climate where co-creation across disciplines is second nature. The early yet promising progress that Cobra Biologics and Karolinska Institute are making to defeat the coronavirus proves this point. I eagerly await the results.”