An inside look at Pfizer’s Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial
Coronavirus vaccine trials may begin in three months
New vaccine technology could revolutionize medicine
Trials of a vaccine against the new Wuhan coronavirus could begin in as little as three months, said Anthony Fausi, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases..
This is quite fast in comparison, for example, with the vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) – then it took scientists 20 months to prepare the vaccine for clinical trials..
However, this does not mean that the vaccine against the Wuhan coronavirus can be done in three months – the vaccine will need to be tested for safety and effectiveness. It may take several more months.
However, the time from the outbreak to the development of a possible vaccine is in record time, thanks in part to a new way of vaccination.
Ever since Edward Jenner developed the world’s first vaccine in the 18th century – it was designed to prevent smallpox – all vaccines have worked in much the same way. The patients were vaccinated with weakened or dead microbes or parts of their key proteins. The body’s immune system reacted to them, and the next time the same microbe appeared, the body could recognize and neutralize it..
In recent years, scientists have begun to explore a different approach. Rather than giving an injection that contains parts of the virus, experimental vaccines contain the genetic codes for parts of the virus, allowing patients, more specifically, their immune systems to produce the exact same codes..
The active ingredient in these vaccines is DNA or RNA – genetic instructions for building proteins.
According to professor of molecular microbiology Andrew Pekosha, infectious viruses are no longer needed to create vaccines. All scientists need is the genetic code of the virus. According to Pekos, this opportunity first appeared at the very beginning of the current outbreak..
Chinese scientists first reported the first cases of unusual pneumonia on December 31, 2019. They isolated the new coronavirus and published its complete genome.
Having received the genetic code of the virus, Inovio Pharmaceuticals created a vaccine against it within three hours. Production started the very next day.
The Inovio vaccine is DNA-based. Two other companies, Moderna and CureVac, use RNA. If DNA is the main protein code, then mRNA is a working copy used by the body to turn the codes into ready-made antibodies..
Both techniques can be easily adapted in the event of new viruses emerging. Inovio is conducting clinical trials of a vaccine against MEPC, a Middle East respiratory syndrome caused by another coronavirus. The company is also working on vaccinations against Zika, Ebola, Lassa, HIV and other diseases..