COVID-19 Vaccine Development: Key Developments in India
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread globally despite lockdowns and restrictions.
While most people are experiencing lockdown blues, scientists worldwide are working endlessly towards developing a viable vaccine candidate to knock down SARS-CoV-2, the deadly coronavirus. Research at a molecular level would help us understand the virus lifecycle and enhance our preparedness to develop strategies against SARS-CoV-2. Vaccines are one of the most practical preventive strategies which would help slow down the spread of COVID – 19 and save millions of lives.
The tremendous impact of the pandemic is paving the way for the evaluation of novel vaccine technology platforms.
As per an analysis published by Nature on 8 April, there are 115 candidate vaccines for COVID-19. Of these, 78 are active against the virus, and 37 have unconfirmed activity. The frontrunners that have transitioned into clinical development include
mRNA-1273 from Moderna
Ad5-nCoV from CanSino Biologicals
INO-4800 from Inovio
LV-SMENP-DC and pathogen-specific aAPC from Shenzhen Geno-Immune Medical Institute.
On 18 May 2020, Moderna announced positive interim phase 1 data for its mRNA vaccine (mRNA-1273). Moderna was very prompt in its action and initiated it’s the testing of its vaccine within two months after sequence identification of the novel virus. The company announced that the vaccine candidate was found to be safe and provoked a strong immune response in a handful of healthy volunteers. The positive interim results have propelled the way to begin larger human trials soon.
A vital feature of the various vaccines being evaluated is the diverse technology platforms harnessed. The majority of the platforms tested are not the foundation for approved vaccines, but their experience in oncology has encouraged researchers to explore the opportunities that these approaches may offer for COVID-19. Some vaccine approaches which are being evaluated include:
Nucleic Acid (DNA And RNA)
Viral Vector (Replicating And Non-Replicating)
Live Attenuated Virus
Approved vaccines based on recombinant proteins for other diseases can be advantageous as they can take advantage of pre-existing production capacity, while DNA or mRNA based novel platforms can bestow flexibility in terms of antigen manipulation
An adjuvant is a constituent of a vaccine that helps stimulate a better immune response. Adjuvants also lower the amount of virus needed for the production of a vaccine, allowing for a larger stock of vaccines to be manufactured, enabling vaccination of more people without compromising protection. GlaxoSmithKline, Seqirus, and Dynavax have committed to making licensed adjuvants with novel COVID-19 vaccines developed by other companies.
Collaborations would play an essential role in ensuring that promising vaccine candidates can be manufactured in sufficient quantities and delivered to all affected areas. Strong international coordination and cooperation between companies, regulators, health authorities, and the government is the need of the hour.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has recently issued a call for funding to support global COVID-19 vaccine development efforts guided by three imperatives: speed, manufacture, and deployment at scale, and global access. “We maintain a dynamic portfolio management approach and will make our enabling science resources available globally. We urge the global vaccine community to collectively mobilize the technical and financial support needed to successfully address the COVID-19 pandemic through a global vaccination program, and provide a strong base to tackle future pandemics.”
The ground-breaking efforts to vaccine development are currently unprecedented in terms of scale and speed. Given the emergency, there is a ray of hope that vaccines could be available by early 2021; however, this would require exceptional efforts and would represent a revolutionary change from the traditional vaccine development pathway, usually taking years. The paradigm shift will require innovative regulatory reforms and a scale-up of manufacturing capacity.
The current scenario depicts companies collaborating to ensure rapid vaccine development. The number of vaccine candidates and novel approached surely generates positivity; however, the road to success will be challenging, and roadblocks are almost inevitable. Though data from the antiviral remdesivir trial is encouraging, a vaccine will ultimately be the lifesaver.
Thanh Le T, Andreadakis Z, Kumar A, et al. The COVID-19 vaccine development landscape. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2020;19(5):305-306.
Moderna Announces Positive Interim Phase 1 Data for its mRNA Vaccine (mRNA-1273) Against Novel Coronavirus. Available at: https://investors.modernatx.com/news-releases/news-release-details/moderna-announces-positive-interim-phase-1-data-its-mrna-vaccine?mod=article_inline