How is coronavirus vaccine development going in the U.S.?
Delivery of the vaccine involved a microneedle array to increase potency. The fingertip-sized patch uses dissolvable needles – made of sugar and protein pieces – to deliver the virus’s spike protein into the skin, eliciting an immune response.
Meanwhile, Janssen Pharmaceutical Co, a division of Johnson & Johnson, announced it will partner with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) to support coronavirus vaccine development. Janssen has started preclinical testing of several projects in its work with Dr. Dan Barouch at BIDMC.
They expect to identify a COVID-19 vaccine candidate for clinical trials by the end of the year.
Both programs are benefiting from recent experiences in vaccine development. The Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, for example, worked closely with Janssen on developing Zika and HIV vaccines.
“We 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 Dr. Andrea Gambotto, associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine. “That’s why it’s important to fund vaccine research. You never know where the next pandemic will come from.”
China’s CanSino Prepares to Advance COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate into Phase II
CanSino is assessing Adenovirus Type 5 Vector, Ad5-nCoV, as a potential vaccine candidate. Ad5-nCoV is a genetically engineered vaccine candidate with the replication-defective adenovirus type 5 as the vector to express SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which intends to be used to prevent the disease caused by the novel coronavirus infection, the company said in its filing. Ad5-nCoV is built upon CanSino BIO’s adenovirus-based viral vector vaccine technology platform, which has also been successfully applied to develop the globally innovative vaccine against Ebola virus infection.
Citing a regulatory protocol publication, Fierce reported that the Phase II trial will include 500 healthy participants. The mid-stage trial will not include a high dose that was included in Phase I but will move forward with a mid-level and low-level dose. The dosing will be split evenly between the 500 participants. Following dosing, CanSino said it hopes to see the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in patients on day 28 following vaccination. The patients will be followed for six months following vaccination.
Last month, Moderna dosed the first patient with its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Moderna’s mRNA-1273 is an mRNA vaccine that encodes for a perfusion stabilized form of the Spike (S) protein. It was chosen by Moderna researchers in collaboration with scientists at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center. As BioSpace previously reported, the mRNA vaccine candidate “codes for the genetic sequence for the spike protein, and when injected into the body, causes the patient’s cells to produce the protein (not the virus), which triggers an immune reaction that will prep itself to battle the virus.”
COVID-19: vaccine and drug development updates
An Australian study has highlighted ivermectin as of interest for further drug research efforts, with the drug inhibiting the growth of SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture within 48 hours. Ivermectin is an FDA-approved anti-parasitic drug that has previously shown efficacy in vitro against various viruses, including HIV, influenza, and Zika.
Takeda (Tokyo, Japan) and CSL Behring (PA, USA) has teamed up with four other companies to focus on developing a treatment using the blood plasma of recovered patients to improve speed over what would have usually been individual efforts – in the process, Takeda will forego its work on a Takeda-branded hyperimmune immunoglobin.
“The big challenge is driving enough plasma to make enough material that you can test in a pilot plan, and then finally in a much larger scale batch,” explained Bill Mezzanotte, head of research and development at CSL. “So by working together in both Europe and the US to start, we’ll be sending the material to one primary manufacturing site in each part of the world so that we can most quickly get batch material that can be both tested and then gotten out to the general public.”
Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline plc (Middlesex, UK) has purchased $250 million worth of shares in Vir Biotechnology, Inc (CA, USA) and will provide knowledge to help speed up the development of treatments, which include two neutralizing antibodies Vir is looking to advance into the clinic. This adds to Vir’s current partnerships with Wuxi Biologics (China) and Biogen (MA, USA).
A similar partnership has been announced by Amgen (CA, USA) and Adaptive Biotechnologies (WA, USA) – the partnership will leverage Amgen’s Icelandic subsidiary deCODE Genetics, which is testing the country’s population.
Coronavirus treatments: Hydroxychloroquine, vaccines, and drugs for COVID-19
Coronavirus was first discovered as the causative agent of COVID-19, scientists have been racing to get a better understanding of the virus’s genetic makeup and unravel how to effectively treat infections. There’s no cure and medical specialists can only treat the symptoms of the disease. Many different treatment options have been proposed and some older drugs seem to be associated with positive outcomes — but much more work is required. However, the long-term strategy to combat COVID-19, which has spread to every continent on Earth besides Antarctica, is to develop a vaccine.
Developing new vaccines takes time, and they must be rigorously tested and confirmed safe via clinical trials before they can be routinely used in humans. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, has frequently stated that a vaccine is at least a year to 18 months away. Experts agree there’s a way to go yet.
Vaccines are incredibly important in the fight against the disease. We’ve been able to keep a handful of viral diseases at bay for decades because of vaccine development. Even so, there exists confusion and unease about their usefulness. This guide explains what vaccines are, why they are so important and how scientists will use them in the fight against the coronavirus. It also discusses the current treatment options being used and those that show promise in hospitals.