Scientists announce they’ve developed potential Covid-19 vaccine

By , K24 Digital
On Wed, 8 Apr, 2020 15:26 | 2 mins read
coronavirus vaccine
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists on April 2, 2020 announced a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. PHOTO | COURTESY
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists on April 2, 2020 announced a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. PHOTO | COURTESY

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the United States claim that they've found a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus.

The scientists made the announcement of their findings last week on April 2, in the EBioMedicine journal that is published by The Lancet.

In the study titled Microneedle Array Delivered Recombinant Coronavirus Vaccines: Immunogenicity and Rapid Translational Development, the scientists said it may now be possible to produce clinical-grade vaccines for human testing and subsequent global distribution in time to significantly impact the spread of coronavirus disease.

The scientists attributed their success to their previous research on similar coronaviruses, SARS and MERs.

In a statement read by the co-senior author, Dr. Andrea Gambotto, a medical doctor and associate professor of surgery at the Pitts School of Medicine, the scientists said that SARS and MERS are closely related to SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19).

Dr. Gambotto said that the two viruses show that a particular protein, referred to as spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus.

The study’s authors said that they hope to start human clinical trials within the next few months after applying for an investigational new drug approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

They tested their vaccine on mice which produced enough antibodies believed to successfully counteract the virus.

“We plan to evaluate these SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for other important predictors of vaccine efficacy in humans, including the induction of neutralizing antibodies and for their ability to prevent infection in animal challenge models, when these assays and preclinical models become available,” said the scientist in their EBioMedicine article.

Mode of delivery

The scientists plan to use a novel technology called micro-needle array to deliver the vaccine.

The array is a fingertip-sized patch of 400 tiny needs that delivers the spike protein pieces into the skin where the immune reaction is the strongest. The process is painless.

"For this vaccine, we are going to deliver the antigen with novel technology referred to as dissolvable micro-needle array. What the micro-needle array is able to do is deliver the vaccine antigen directly into those areas of the skin that are made to make an immune response and so it results in a very potent vaccine," said Dr. Falo, MD, PhD at Pitts School of Medicine.

Dr. Falo said they developed the micro-needle array technology on the original scratch method that was used to deliver the smallpox vaccine to the skin.

However, the new method is more efficient and reproducible patient to patient, the doctor said.

The study's co-senior author, Dr. Gambotto, said that the greatest challenge that they face will be scaling up the number of vaccines needed to meet the pandemic demand.

"This vaccine and other vaccines that are going to be emerging is the result of the work done by scientists in a lot of other areas. And what is important is being able to bring tall those scientists together in order to be successful," said Dr. Gambotto.

The study was authored by 11 scientists, namely: Eun Kim, Geza Erdos, Shaohua Huang, Thomas W. Kenniston, Stephen C. Balmert, Cara Donahue Carey, V. Stalin Raj, Michael W. Eppely, William B. Klimstra, Bart L. Haagmans, Emrullah Korkmaz, Louis D. Falo Jr., and Andrea Gambotto.