Researchers in Nigeria have developed a new Coronavirus vaccine candidate and said that it is optimized for the African population. The newly developed vaccine has undergone a successful pre-clinical trial but the researchers are hoping for some financial support to conduct a human trial.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 41 COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which are in clinical trials, while more than 150 candidates are in various stages of development. Countries have also secured prospective vaccines for their population. But before the Nigerian scientists developed the vaccine candidate in Africa there was no such effort and it left the continent in a tough position as a majority of African countries lack the power of funds to secure vaccines for their population.
There were also concerns about how effective these vaccine candidates will be on African people as the development included mostly the data from the non-African population. However, now as the Nigerian researchers successfully developed a candidate, effective on the African people, they don't have enough funds to conduct human trials to take the vaccine development efforts forward.
Vaccine Development in Africa
It was professor Christian Happi, a molecular biologist and genomicist, and his team of researchers at the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Nigeria who developed the new vaccine.
The vaccine is claimed to have gone through the pre-clinical trial during which researchers tested its efficacy and toxicity on mice after they worked with partners at Cambridge University. The lead researcher Happi said, "We were able to identify a neutralizing antibody that could knock down up to 90 percent of the viruses."
Happi also emphasized the importance of the new vaccine, highlighting the concerns among other African researchers regarding vaccine development in Western countries. According to him, the genetic diversity of the African population has been demonstrated to affect the efficacy of several already developed vaccines.
The new vaccine is built on the genome sequences of novel Coronavirus' lineage, which have been found in the African continent. The team of researchers behind the development of the vaccine has also conducted human genetic studies on many African people. They applied the data collected from the studies on the vaccine development process.
Waiting for Funding
Unlike other vaccine development efforts that have received millions of dollars of funds from billionaires like Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Alibaba founder Jack Ma as well as from the governments, this newly developed vaccine is still waiting for the financial support.
Happi said if they receive funds then the vaccine would be ready in 12 months after the beginning of the human trials. He said that the vaccine development process requires a lot of resources and added, "So we are trying to see whether the Nigerian government can fund it but we have not received any funding from the government."
As per Gerald Mboowa, a bioinformatics scientist at Makerere University in Uganda, some western funders may support Nigeria's vaccine development process but "this is not on their priority lists." Mboowa suggested that African countries through the African Union should be mobilized to fund this vaccine development effort.
However, in August screening started in South Africa involving up to 3,000 participants to enroll in the study of Novavax, which is a US-based drug developer of vaccines for serious infectious diseases. The efforts received a $15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.