While scientists from all around the world joined the race to find a cure for the deadly Coronavirus, which has killed more than 58,000 people and infected 1,100,283 individuals globally, researchers at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have claimed that they have found a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus.
It should be noted that the US, China and Israel are currently in the first row to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. While two world powers already started the human trials and China revealed that they want to conduct further tests in other Coronavirus affected countries, Israel recently mentioned that it started tests of the prototype on rodents at its bio-chemical defence laboratory.
As per a new study published in EBioMedicine, the researchers announced their findings on Thursday, April 2 and believe the vaccine could be rolled out quickly enough to "significantly impact the spread of disease." The US scientists expect that the potential vaccine, which would be delivered on a fingertip-size patch, when tested on mice, they noticed that it produced enough antibodies believed to successfully counteract the Novel Coronavirus.
The researchers claimed that the scientists acted fast they had already done research on the similar coronaviruses SARS and MERS. Co-senior author of the study, Andrea Gambotto, MD, associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine said, "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."
University of Pittsburgh vaccine research
It should be noted that to create the vaccine scientists followed a traditional approach of the usual flu vaccine while using lab-made viral protein to build the immunity. They said that the potential COVID-19 vaccine was able to deliver enough antibodies against the Coronavirus within two weeks.
The authors of the study are now applying for investigational new drug approval from US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which recently has authorizes new Coronavirus blood test that can identify people who had COVID-19 with no symptoms. As per the researchers they sided with using a patch, rather than a needle, to deliver the spike protein to the skin of a COVID-19 patient which elicits the strongest immune reaction.
Here it should be noted that the patch contains 400 tiny microneedles made of sugar and protein pieces which would be applied like a Band-Aid with the needles dissolving into the skin. However, the researchers from the University of Pittsburgh hope to start human clinical trials within the next few months.
Gambotto said that usually in terms of developing a vaccine there is no need to address scalability, to begin with, but when "you try to develop a vaccine quickly against a pandemic, that's the first requirement."
Why developing a vaccine for COVID-19 is taking so much time?
At this point of time at least 35 companies and academic institutions from all around the world are trying to develop a vaccine. The scientists started the race to find a cure soon after China shared the Sars-CoV-2 genetic sequence with the world in early January.
Before the pandemic, scientists had no idea that the next outbreak would be caused by a Coronavirus, so the vaccinologists had hedged their bets by working on "prototype" pathogens. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Oslo-based nonprofit the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), which is leading efforts to finance and coordinate COVID-19 vaccine development said, "The speed with which we have [produced these candidates] builds very much on the investment in understanding how to develop vaccines for other Coronaviruses."
It should be noted that a vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus will need to be put through especially stringent safety testing to rule out the risk of enhanced disease. For that reason taking a vaccine candidate all the way to regulatory approval takes a decade or more which is why US President Donald Trump sowed confusion when at the White House briefing on March 2, he pressed for a vaccine to be ready by the US elections in November, which is an impossible deadline.
However, apart from the long waited safety tests of a vaccine, there is another problem which cannot be overlooked. Soon after the vaccine approval, it will be needed in each and every country and many of the organisations who are working on Coronavirus vaccine don't have the necessary production capacity. It should be mentioned that Cepi plans to invest in developing a Novel Coronavirus vaccine and boosting manufacturing capacity in parallel.