In the mad dash of several pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to create and test a good vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 there might a “dark horse” in the crowded race. The company Novavax, that had already received a 1.6 Billion U$ grant from the American government to develop a coronavirus vaccine, have announced good results on August 4. Carl Zimmer and Katie Thomas report in a NY Times article that: “In one study, 56 volunteers produced a high level of antibodies against the virus without any dangerous side effects. In the other, researchers found that the vaccine strongly protected monkeys from coronavirus infections.” These results are being submitted in article proposals to peer-reviewed publications at the present time.
The 33-year company—that never made a commercially viable vaccine so far—used two techniques that are different form the ones we have already discussed. They are:
- They use a coronavirus protein that can elicit an immune response in humans.
- They use moth cells as more fast factories for a virus protein dubbed as spike.
In order to potentiate the effectiveness of the “spike” they added an adjuvant to the mix; data on mice studies had already established the value of using this adjuvant. They gave different combinations of the spike and the adjuvant to monkeys, who eventually developed good immunogenicity against the coronavirus, even erasing any traces of the virus in the respiratory or ventilatory systems in some of them. In a Phase 1 clinical trial with 134 volunteers done last May, there were no side effects. After completing that initial trial, the researchers took serum from the vaccinated participants and mixed it with coronavirus and cells. They found a markedly protective effect in the serum that blocked the virus from infecting other virgin cells. They claimed that their vaccine finally produced more antibodies in the participants than in convalescent patients form a Covid-19 infection.
John P. Moore and P.J. Klassse reviewed in an article the prospective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates and concluded that: “By far the most immunogenic vaccine candidates for antibody responses are recombinant proteins, which are not included in the ‘Warp Speed’ immunogens.” In the NY Times article, Dr, Moore was quoted as saying: “the strong response to the vaccine does not surprise me in the slightest.” The protein-based vaccines have a much longer track record of effectiveness than the novel viral genes-based vaccines, being licensed for Hepatitis B and Shingles. Three other protein based-vaccines—from Clover pharmaceuticals, the University of Queensland and Vaxine—are in Phase 1 trials. The US administration has granted 2.2 billion U$ to a joint project by the Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline companies.
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