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Discovery & Development COVID-19, Vaccines, Drug Discovery

Throwing Down the Single-Jab Gauntlet

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no consensus on what the end game should look like, but the hope of a vaccine-based solution quickly took hold. That hope is now a two-jab reality for many, with most currently approved COVID-19 vaccines (and all mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines) requiring two doses – usually several weeks apart – to ensure optimal protection.

Earlier this year, Debiopharm, a biopharma company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, announced a crowdsourcing challenge – worth US$40,000 – for a theoretical single-shot mRNA COVID-19 vaccine that would offer the same level of protection as approved multi-dose formulations (1, 2) – submissions closed on May 28, 2021.

“We received over 30 quality proposals and have selected two winners. We will make an official announcement soon,” says Frédéric Lévy, Executive Director, Head of Search & Evaluation and Scientific Innovation at Debiopharm.

To throw down the gauntlet, Debiopharm used global crowdsourcing platform InnoCentive, which connects organizations with experts across the world (to use InnoCentive’s lexicon: predominantly scientific “Challenges” are posed by “Seekers” to “Solvers”). To access the $40,000 prize, the winning Solvers will have to transfer IP rights in exchange; however, the Solvers may remain involved in the development of their solutions by Debiopharm, should they wish to do so.

So why all the effort for a potential single-shot vaccine? Lévy outlines the benefits: “People would only encounter possible side effects once, as opposed to twice. For those who aren’t in close proximity to medical care, pursuing a single-dose vaccine would also alleviate any travel concerns that may occur if a second dose was warranted, and it may be more realistic and appealing to obtain a single dose in certain geographies. In India, for example, there is a large percentage of the population that has only received the first dose of the vaccine, potentially due to inaccessibility of vaccination clinics. Internally, we collectively felt that a simplified vaccine dose would help control the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

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  1. Debiopharma (2021). Available at:
  2. Innocentive (2021). Available at:
About the Author
Angus Stewart

Associate Editor of The Medicine Maker

Between studying for my English undergrad and Publishing master's degrees I was out in Shanghai, teaching, learning, and getting extremely lost. Now I'm expanding my mind down a rather different rabbit hole: the pharmaceutical industry. Outside of this job I read mountains of fiction and philosophy, and I must say, it's very hard to tell who's sharper: the literati, or the medicine makers.

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