Covid: universal vaccine to deliver encouraging primary results

Published by Laurent de Sortiraparis · Published on April 26th, 2021 at 09:34 a.m.
And what if there was a universal vaccine working against all variants soon to be available? After an ongoing study at the University of California on this very matter, searchers from the University of Virgina in the United States share their results. And they seem promising.

Is a universal vaccine against all kinds of Covid and variants soon to be available? Searchers from the University of Virginia have presented the National Academy of Sciences the primary results of their study on a vaccine able to eradicate any form or other variants of coronavirus. A study that led them to conduct tests on pigs - as they have a genetic capital similar to humans' - with very encouraging results as their candidate vaccine managed to protect animals from swine covid, as well as SARS-CoV-2.

The candidate vaccine does not aim at the Spike protein - as the vaccines currently marketed do - but a "viral fusion peptide", that is to say viral particles fusing with the membrane surrounding the cells, enabling the virus to duplicate within the body and contaminate someone. A peptide identical to each strain of the virus and that does not mutate. Clinical trials - even though promising - continue.

The universal vaccine seems to be within easy reach as many laboratories are working on it. This is also the case of the Belgian biotech myNEO, that came up with a "cocktail of peptides protecting from several forms of the virus". So does the American biotech Phylex Biosciences trying to develop a vaccine relying on an antigen taking into account the main mutations. We can also name the French biotech Osivax set in Lyon targeting another protein, the "nucleocapside", that is set within the virus.

But the vaccine raising the most enthusiasm has been addressed this Friday March 26 on Europe 1, by UC Irvine researcher Lbachir BenMohamed has come to talk about his research about universal vaccine he hopes to develop soon: “We are currently completing the pre-clinical step”, he says. He goes on: “we have 15 vaccine candidates we are testing on mice. The animal is immunized and then exposed to variants and we observe what product manages to protect it against all these variants”. As for in-human tests, “we hope to move to clinical trials by late 2021, or early 2022 at the latest”, he explained.

A vaccine that will not only enable to fight against the pandemic, but also anticipate those to come. “The question is not to know if it will happen, but when it will happen”, he also added. He continued: “Covid-19 is not the first nor the last pandemic caused by a coronavirus. It is not impossible to see in the coming years, for instance, a Covid-25 or a Covid-30”. He concludes: “instead of focusing on developing one vaccine for Covid-19, my laboratory endeavors to anticipate the next pandemics by developing a universal vaccine against all coronaviruses”.

To anticipate the coming crisis, the immunologist’s teams have been working on all the proteins making the virus, and not only those Covid uses to enter our cells. The idea? Fighting against one variant as well as against another one, without having to change the vaccine for weeks, as the messenger RNA vaccines require: “vaccine we are developing is not only focusing on the Spike protein we know today. AstraZeneca vaccine, Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Pfizer, Modernan, all these vaccines are based on this very protein, but ours relies on other proteins, because the virus has 25 of them”, Lbachir BenMohamed explains.

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