While the success of US biotechnology company Moderna Inc with its Covid-19 vaccine has offered tentative hopes in the global effort to combat the pandemic, reports of University of Oxford’s candidate not being able to prevent infection in monkeys has resulted in equal dejection. This comes as a severe blow as Oxford University’s experimental vaccine — ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 — was one of the top contenders in the race.
While a vaccine to be ready for commercial use may still be far away, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a Covid-19 survivor himself, has bluntly claimed that there might never be a jab for the novel coronavirus despite the huge global effort. In a column in The Mail, Johnson wrote, “There remains a very long way to go and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition. We need to find new ways to control the virus.”
For Covid-19, there are over 100 vaccines being developed across the world now, some from scratch, some from existing molecules developed for other diseases.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine latest updates:
💉 The biggest news related to development of a vaccine this week has no doubt come from Moderna Inc, with its candidate — mRNA-1273 — showing signs that it can create an immune-system response to fend off the novel coronavirus. However, the reports were based on data from eight people who took part in a 45-subject safety trial.
Eight participants who received two doses of the vaccine — 25 and 100 mcg — produced antibodies that could defeat the coronavirus. The antibodies reportedly produced a higher level of protective antibodies than found in the blood of recovered Covid-19 patients.
Some of the participants showed side effects like local pain, redness at the site of injection, and fever — effects that could be considered a good immunity response. The development saw Moderna’s shares surging as much as 30% in New York, hitting an all-time intraday high of $87.
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💉 Meanwhile, dampening hopes in what was touted to be a top contender for Covid-19 vaccine, Oxford University’s candidate has not been able to prevent infection in rhesus macaques and it does not stop them from spreading the infection to others either.
Researchers, however, found that it protected the animals from developing viral pneumonia. However, it was noted that vaccinated monkeys had lower viral load than those that did not receive the dosage.
According to a report in UK paper The Daily Express, Dr William Haseltine, a former Harvard Medical School professor, said all of the vaccinated monkeys treated with the vaccine –ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 — became infected when challenged with the virus.
“There was no difference in the amount of viral RNA detected from this site in the vaccinated monkeys as compared to the non-vaccinated animals. Which is to say, all vaccinated animals were infected,” he said.
In the last week of April, scientists from Oxford and the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory had said in a statement that the vaccine had shown promise in monkeys.
💉 In China, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus, which had its origins at a wet market in Wuhan, scientists at the Peking University claimed a new drug had been tested successfully on animals, a report in the scientific journal Cell said. They maintained that medication was the key to stop Covid-19 rather than a vaccine.
Researchers said the drug could shorten the recovery time for patients infected with Covid-19 and results also showed that it had the potential to offer short-term immunity from the virus, AFP reported.
“The drug has been successful at the animal testing stage. When we injected neutralising antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” AFP quoted Sunney Xie, director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, as saying. Xie said the results indicate that this potential drug had therapeutic effect.
The drug works by generating neutralising antibodies – produced by the human immune system to prevent the virus infecting cells – which researchers isolated from the blood of 60 patients who had recovered from Covid-19. “The hope is these neutralised antibodies can become a specialised drug that would stop the pandemic,” Xie added. Xie said the drug should be ready for use later this year and in time for any potential winter outbreak of the virus.
💉 Joining the global race, Thailand recently said a vaccine for the novel coronavirus would be ready next year after the Thai mRNA vaccine showed promise on mice, according to a Reuters report. Thailand will begin testing the mRNA vaccine in monkeys next week, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.
The Thai vaccine is being developed by the National Vaccine Institute, the Department of Medical Science and Chulalongkorn University’s vaccine research centre. Messenger RNA prompts body cells to produce so-called antigens, molecules on the surface of viruses, that spur the immune system into action.
💉 Moreover, US-based drug maker Pfizer, which is jointly developing a Covid-19 vaccine with German company BNTECH, has started its first phase of human trials and close to 200 people aged between 18-55 are being tested. In the next phase, another 160 people will be tested. The ‘BNT162’ vaccine received clinical approvals in March.
Pfizer and BNTECH have introduced four vaccine candidates, which have been devised out of messenger RNA (mRNA) format and target antigen. While three vaccines contain nucleoside-modified mRNA, the other one contains self- amplifying mRNA. The company is hopeful of producing a million vaccines for use by October 2020.
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