Vaccines for COVID-19: Time to Fast-Track

Vaccines for COVID-19: Time to Fast-Track


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.

COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates – The Frontrunners

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.

Moderna Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Shows Promising Early Results

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.

Novel Vaccine Development Paradigms

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)

  • Virus-Like Particle

  • Peptide

  • Viral Vector (Replicating And Non-Replicating)

  • Recombinant Protein

  • Live Attenuated Virus

  • Inactivated 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

Adjuvanted Vaccines – Viable Vaccines at a Lower Dose

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.

Need for Collaborations

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.”

Challenges

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.


References

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