Africa: The Latest in The COVID-19 Vaccine Race

The race is on to find a vaccine to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Countries around the world are using different vaccine technologies to try and find ones that can halt the pandemic. There are more than 102 candidate vaccines that researchers are working on, nine of which are now being tested in clinical trials in humans.

When candidate vaccines make it to human clinical trials, they first go through Phase 1 trials primarily to test the vaccine’s safety, determine dosages and identify any potential side effects in a small number of people. Phase 2 trials further explore safety and start to investigate efficacy on larger groups. The final stage, Phase 3 trials, which few vaccines ever make it to, are much larger, involving thousands or tens of thousands of people, to confirm and assess the effectiveness of the vaccine and test whether there are any rare side effects that only show up in large groups. Here is a list of candidates that are in Phase 1 or 2 trials, and those that are close to Phase 1 trials.

Phase 2

CanSino Biologics Inc. viral vector vaccine, China

The only vaccine candidate currently in Phase 2 trials is Ad5-nCoV which uses a harmless non-replicating viral vector (essentially a sort of molecular transport) to carry vaccine antigens into the human cell – this is the same platform that the vaccine developer CanSino Biologics Inc, based in Tianjin, used for its Ebola vaccine. The vaccine was jointly developed with the Institute of Biotechnology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. The clinical trial will enroll 108 subjects and take place at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, where the COVID-19 pandemic began.

WUHAN INSTITUTE OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS’s INACTIVATED VACCINE, WUHAN, CHINA

The second vaccine in China to enter into phase 2 trials, after 96 people in three different age groups received the vaccine in the first phase of clinical trial that started on April 23.

Phase 1 / Phase 2

BIONTECH’S mRNA VACCINE, GERMANY

BioNTech, working together with Pfizer, has just started testing its BNT162 vaccine in humans in global trials, initially in Germany with plans to follow this with tests in the USA and China.

UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD’S VIRAL VECTOR VACCINE, UK

The ChAdOx1 vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, has started to be tested in human clinical trials. The team undertook animal trials in April at the Public Health England (PHE) laboratory in the UK. Ferrets and macaques were injected with the vaccine, and then given an intranasal dose of the virus – these trials were promising as all six animals given the vaccine did not become infected with the virus.

BEIJING INSTITUTE OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS’ INACTIVATED VACCINE, BEIJING, CHINA

Like the Wuhan Institute, this institute also belongs to China’s state-run Sinopharm Group, and is working on this vaccine with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Phase 1

MODERNA’S MRNA VACCINE, USA

The first vaccine to enter Phase 1 clinical trials, investigating safety and efficacy in humans – skipping animal testing, for the time being – was the RNA vaccine developed by Moderna (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and funded by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the US National Institutes of Health. The vaccine is being tested on volunteers at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Moderna expects to start Phase 2 trials within the next couple of months.

INOVIO PHARMACEUTICALS’ DNA VACCINE, USA

Inovio put its INO-4800 DNA vaccine into human trials early in April. It is so far the only company with a Phase 2 vaccine against the related MERS-CoV. The company plans to start human clinical trials in the USA, and shortly after in China and South Korea.

SHENZHEN GENO-IMMUNE MEDICAL INSTITUTE’S LENTIVIRAL VECTOR VACCINES, CHINA

Although not yet in WHO’s list of COVID-19 vaccines, the Shenzhen Geno-Immune Medical Institute has two candidate vaccines – LV-SMENP-DC and a pathogen-specific aAPC – in the clinical trials registry as being in Phase 1 trials. Both potential vaccines work by using a lentivirus (a family of viruses that include HIV) to transport coronavirus DNA into the body to trigger an immune response.

SINOVAC’s INACTIVATED VACCINE, BEIJING, CHINA

This inactivated vaccine has been tested on primates so far, and has protected rhesus macaques from contracting the virus, three weeks after being injected with the vaccine.

Soon-to-be in Phase 1

NOVAVAX’S PROTEIN SUBUNIT VACCINE, USA

Novavax is using a nanoparticle technology platform to generate antigens from the protein found on the spikey outer shell of the coronavirus. Several candidates are being tested in animal trials, with Phase 1 testing expected in the next month or two.

UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND/GSK’S PROTEIN SUBUNIT VACCINE, AUSTRALIA

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane are using a patented vaccine-development technique called a ‘molecular clamp’. They first create a synthetic version of the characteristic ‘spike’ protein that covers the virus, as this can trigger an immune response in the human body. They then attach a ‘clamp’ onto this synthetic protein to ensures it remains stable enough to trigger antibodies (the protein would normally denature in the human body). The researchers expect to start human trials in July.

Originally published 24 March 2020, updated 11 May 2020

source: https://allafrica.com/stories/202005140503.html

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