Announcing Alvea—An EA COVID Vaccine Project

We’ve had effective COVID vaccines for more than a year, but there are still countries where less than 10% of people have received a dose. Omicron has been spreading for almost three months, but pharma companies have only just started testing variant-specific shots. mRNA vaccines are highly effective, but they’re hard to manufacture and nearly impossible to distribute in parts of the developing world.

We won’t be ready for the next variant, or the next pandemic, until these problems are solved.

An ideal vaccine platform for pandemic preparedness would be fast, effective, cheap, robust, and scalable enough to reach a critical portion of the global population as soon as any new pathogen is identified. Ideas have been floating around the EA biosecurity community for years about what such a platform would look like, and what it would take to build it, but there hasn’t been much direct work in the space.

The most recent COVID wave convinced a few of us that it was time for that to change, so we launched Alvea to rapidly develop and deploy an Omicron-specific vaccine. In doing so, we’re aiming to build a platform for responding to future COVID variants or other novel pathogens, and to massively level up the technical, operational, clinical, organizational, and logistical capabilities of the longtermist biosecurity community.

We’ve initially structured Alvea as a three-month sprint to test the hypothesis that an exceptionally bright, dedicated group of people can quickly accomplish remarkable things in this space. In the past eight weeks, we’ve built a team of 35 drug developers, logistics experts, physicians, operators, and scientists to bring the project to fruition. We’re supported by a network of consultants and partners with deep experience in every aspect of vaccine development and infectious disease response.

Many of us are longtermist EAs who believe this project has a shot at transformative impact on biosecurity. All of us are committed to radically improving vaccine development, and are working around the clock to make this happen.

Our strategy at Alvea is simple: We’re building a streamlined platform for developing and deploying DNA vaccines using safe, well-validated components. DNA vaccines function similarly to mRNA vaccines, but are easier to produce and can be shipped around the world with no special storage requirements. Ultimately, we expect people to be able to easily self-administer our vaccines anywhere on the planet.

Getting our vaccines into the clinic—and out to the places where they’re needed—requires solving a staggering number of problems in preclinical development, manufacturing, international regulation, clinical trial design, logistics, and other areas, all at the same time. In many cases, the standard approaches to these problems are riddled with crippling inefficiencies. We’re eliminating those when we can, and building from scratch when we can’t.

In the 60 days since our inception, we’ve designed twelve versions of our Omicron vaccine, responded to the emergence of the BA.2 subvariant, produced hundreds of doses of our lead candidate, run preclinical experiments in mice and sheep, kicked off scalable manufacturing processes, planned Phase I and II clinical studies, and identified potential partner countries for accelerated trials. There’s an enormous amount of work still to be done, but we are well on our way.

Alvea is led by Ethan Alley and Grigory Khimulya (Co-CEOs), Cate Hall, and Kyle Fish. Our team is growing rapidly, and we’re particularly keen to expand in the following areas:

  • Wet laboratory (molecular biology, in vitro and in vivo development)

  • Clinical trial operations and logistics

  • General company operations

  • cGMP manufacturing and quality

  • Technical/​scientific management

We’d love to hear from anyone who’s interested in dropping everything to get involved! Reach us at info@alveavax.com.