Several laboratories are trying to find a vaccine that is effective against Covid-19, as well as its variants. What is the state of research?
Current vaccines against Covid-19 are not known to be equally effective against the variants. Without waiting for the answer, several laboratories around the world are already working on a new vaccine that would be universal this time. This means that it would protect individuals not only against COVID-19 but also against all its variants. Clinical trials are currently underway and research is progressing.
In the United States, clinical trials are showing good results
Researchers at the University of Virginia in the United States are working to develop a universal vaccine. They have just presented the results of their clinical trials to the National Academy of Sciences, with good results. The vaccine acts on a part of the COVID virus’ spike protein – which, unlike the virus, does not mutate – that Covid-19 and its variants use to enter the body and cells. The scientists tested their product on pigs, animals that are genetically similar to humans. The experiment worked: after the injection, the pigs were protected not only against their species’ coronavirus but also against human SARS-CoV-2. Finally, another biotechnology company in the US, Phylex Biosciences, is working on a vaccine based on an antigen, an antibody-producing macromolecule that would contain all known mutations of Covid-19. So if it works, the vaccinated would have antibodies against all the targeted variants.
Several universal vaccines in the pipeline in France
In France, a Lyon-based biotechnology company, Osivax, is working on the development of two vaccines: one against influenza and one against COVID-19 and its variants. Indeed, the mechanisms of action of these viruses are similar, which facilitates research. For the COVID-19 vaccine, Osivax is targeting a protein, which is found in SARS-CoV-2 and remains the same even when the virus mutates. Clinical trials on animals have begun and the company hopes to have them on humans within a year. After that, commercialization will depend on the results of those clinical trials and also on health developments. “If in a year’s time we don’t have too many problems with the variants and the current vaccines protect well, it will take 3-4 years to develop this vaccine,” Alexandre Le Vert, founder of Osivax, told the Ouest France newspaper. Other French companies are also developing a universal vaccine. This is the case of OSE Immunotherapeutics, which has received approval to begin phase 1 of its clinical trials in Belgium.
A universal nasal spray coronavirus vaccine
In Belgium, two biotechnology companies are developing a universal vaccine. The first, myNEO, is also focusing on a product that would act on the spike protein. The second, on the other hand, is focused on a vaccine developed from an antigen that contains all the mutations of SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine however will be marketed as a nasal spray!
Currently, a dozen laboratories and biotechnology companies around the world are trying to produce a universal vaccine.