Despite warnings from experts that there is no guarantee of a successful coronavirus vaccine, Jonathan Gershoni, professor at Tel Aviv University's (TAU) School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology claimed on Sunday, April 19 that the work his laboratory doing on Coronavirus is "two-thirds of the way" through the process of developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 that killed 165,227 people worldwide already.
As per Prof Gershoni, even though the researchers are moving fast to develop the vaccine, it will still take at least a year to complete the whole process.
COVID 19 vaccine
The TAU Prof Gershoni has studied the family of the Coronavirus for 15 years. As per the researcher he was recently granted a patent by US Patent and Trademark office for the vaccine design. The COVID-19 vaccine intends to target the virus's Receptor Binding Motif (RBM), which is a critical weak point that allows the deadly Coronavirus to attach itself and infect a target cell.
As explained by TAU, even though the virus uses many different proteins to replicate and invade cells, the "spike" protein is the "major surface protein that it uses to bind to a receptor – another protein that acts as a doorway into a human cell."
After protein binds to the receptor of a cell, the viral membrane combined with that of a human cell which allows the genome of the virus to enter human cells and begin infection. As reported by The Jerusalem Post, Prof Gershoni said his aim is to recreate-reconstruct-reconstitute the design of an RBM of new COVID-19 virus which infected over two million people globally.
He also said, "That is to say, you would inject a small 50 amino-acid sequence and it would allow our immune system to focus on it and create antibodies that would directly target the virus at its weak spot."
As per the TAU professor, the reconstitution would be challenging because of the size of the RBM that is a highly complex three-dimensional structure and only 50 amino acids long. But this would be extremely effective as a basis for a possible vaccine against COVID-19.
Coronavirus vaccine by Israel scientists
Prof Gershoni said that the effectiveness of the vaccine will depend on target size and the focus of the attack. He also mentioned, "The virus takes far-reaching measures to hide its RBM from the human immune system, but the best way to 'win the war' is to develop a vaccine that specifically targets the virus's RBM."
It should be mentioned that the researcher from Israel, first developed the design of the vaccine which targets the RBM for SARS outbreak in 2004 and later for MERS CoV. During the early study they found that the researchers were able to reconstitute, to create a functional RBM and that's when we filed for a patent in 2015," said Prof Gershoni.
"We are now currently working on implementing the design of the vaccine that we were able to construct for SARS and MERS and to apply it to the current virus, the SARS coronavirus 2," he mentioned while adding that "this is a multi-step process. We've completed, I would say, about two-thirds of the way."
The team of scientists needed the genetic sequence of the novel Coronavirus that was published by Chinese authorities in January. It allowed them to identify the RBM. The Israeli prof then had to construct various variations of the RBM. He said, "We are now currently in the process of screening to identify the RBM which is most similar to the natural, the RBM of the virus, which therefore would constitute a functional vaccine."
Recently, the team received serum samples which will help them to isolate RBM-based vaccine candidates within next one month or two. However, while explaining the process Prof Gershoni said that the discovery and production of a functional RBM for the SARS-CoV-2 is fundamental and critical for the production of the vaccine they propose. If it becomes successful, Prof Gershoni and his team will be able to isolate and reconstitute a functional RBM that would allow the industry to "incorporate it into a vaccine, which will be produced by a pharmaceutical company."
In addition, Prof Gershoni mentioned, "Development of such an RBM-based vaccine should take months and then would need to be tested in Phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials, which would then take up to a year."
However, it should be mentioned that as per a previous report, while US and China -- both started testing potential COVID-19 vaccine on humans in March, Israel, which has reported over 13,000 Coronavirus infection cases, is said to have started testing of a COVID-19 vaccine prototype on animals.
A few days ago, the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) chief innovation officer Eran Zahavy said the institution had shifted its entire focus to the new Coronavirus and mentioned that three groups of scientists are trying to develop a vaccine against the COVID-19, while another group is working on the treatment.