AGENCIES, Washington: The US, one of the hardest hit coronavirus hit countries in the world is frantically looking for a breakthrough vaccine. And here’s some positive news in that respect.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, after conducting successful animal tests, have announced a potential vaccine, against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.
When tested in mice, the vaccine—delivered through a fingertip-sized patch — produced antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 at quantities thought to be sufficient for neutralising the virus, said the team in a paper that appeared on eBioMedicine — published by The Lancet.
The authors are in the process of applying for an investigational new drug (IND) approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in anticipation of starting a phase I human clinical trial in the next few months.
If successful after human trials, the vaccine will still take more than a year to reach the market. The team had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014.
“These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus. We knew exactly where to fight this new virus,” said co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine.
“Our ability to rapidly develop this vaccine was a result of scientists with expertise in diverse areas of research working together with a common goal,” added study co-senior author Louis Falo, professor and chair of dermatology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC.
The researchers point out that mice who got their MERS-CoV vaccine produced a sufficient level of antibodies to neutralize the virus for at least a year, and so far the antibody levels of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccinated animals seem to be following the same trend.
Importantly, the SARS-CoV-2 microneedle vaccine maintains its potency even after being thoroughly sterilized with gamma radiation – a key step toward making a product that’s suitable for use in humans.
“Testing in patients would typically require at least a year and probably longer,” Falo said.
Work on a potential vaccine is underway in several other countries including India.
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech is getting into development and testing of a vaccine against COVID-19 called CoroFlu as part of an international collaboration of virologists and vaccine makers.
CoroFlu is a one drop COVID-19 nasal vaccine built on a flu vaccine “backbone” that has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated in humans, in Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, the vaccine maker said.
Johnson & Johnson has already announced that it expects to begin clinical testing in humans evaluating its lead coronavirus vaccine candidate by September 2020 at the latest.