• Bloomberg


Shares in Japanese biopharma venture AnGes Inc. continued to surge Tuesday, as its much-hyped coronavirus vaccine candidate moved closer to starting human trials.

Shares jumped as much as 19 percent in Tokyo trading, taking its gaining streak to a fourth day, after the Nikkei newspaper reported late Monday that it would begin clinical trials for its DNA vaccine in July, earlier than previously planned. The stock closed at the highest level since 2008.

That report followed the announcement by AnGes that animal trials of the vaccine had confirmed an increase in antibodies in tests it had been conducting with Osaka University since March.

“We will examine the results of the toxicity data and swiftly move forward to clinical trials,” AnGes said in a statement Monday.

AnGes’s advance has helped buoy Tokyo’s Mothers startup board to the highest level since January 2019. The progress of its drug development has led to wild swings in the stock, with shares falling more than 50 percent in two trading sessions earlier this month. The stock is still up more than 250 percent year-to-date.

DNA vaccines are a novel type of vaccine that use genetic material from pathogens to produce antibodies by inducing an immune system response. Such a vaccine has yet to be approved for human use anywhere in the world, but the technology has attracted attention for their purported safety and ease of large-scale manufacturing.

The vaccine is just one of hundreds of potential candidates worldwide, including that of Moderna Inc., but is thought to be the Japanese candidate at the most advanced stage. Having declared initial success in fighting the virus and ending the state of the emergency, Japan has indicated its keenness to take a leading role in the development of a vaccine.

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Sunday the second supplementary budget set to be decided Wednesday would include funds to support the development of a vaccine, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country would seek to take the lead in developing a vaccine and treatment, and would propose a patent pool at the Group of Seven summit next month.

“We must join with countries that share our values and, in a free and open manner, take the lead in fighting the virus,” Abe said at his news conference yesterday announcing the end of the state of emergency.

While the government has also pitched Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s Avigan antiviral drug as a treatment for COVID-19, health minister Katsunobu Kato said today that the government has given up on an earlier plan to approve the drug this month, Kyodo reported.

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