Scientists urgently develop new coronavirus vaccines

The weather is unpredictable, and humans often infect the disease unknowingly. At this time, the vaccine is “Dingxin Wan”. After the outbreak of the new-type coronavirus (2019-CoV) pneumonia from Wuhan, Hubei, scientists at home and abroad have also focused on vaccine development.

On January 23 local time, the “Epidemial Defense Innovation Alliance” (CEPI for short) announced that it would give three companies a total of $ 12.5 million in funding for the development of the 2019-CoV vaccine. CEPI is trying to reach a new record for vaccine development and testing, and its chief executive Richard Hatchett said, “That’s what CEPI wants to do.”

The outbreak of Ebola virus in 2014 directly killed 11,000 people and contributed to the establishment of CEPI. This is a non-profit organization formally established in 2016. Several governments and private foundations work with countries affected by the epidemic to develop anti-virus vaccines. They also provide funds and funds for the development of emerging infectious disease vaccines. Controlling the spread of epidemics.

Each of the three tasks supported by CEPI began in a few hours after Chinese researchers first published a series of 2019-CoV genome sequencing in a public database. According to Science, the work began on the evening of January 10, local time, in Bethesda, Maryland, home of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Barney Graham, deputy director of the NIAID Vaccine Research Center, began analyzing the sequence with his team the following morning, January 11 local time. On January 13th, Graham discussed his findings with researchers at vaccine maker Moderna. On January 14, they signed a cooperation agreement.

Moderna produces vaccines with the help of messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. When the vaccine is injected into the body, mRNA causes the body to produce antigens and triggers an immune response. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said Moderna already has nine vaccines using mRNA “platforms” in clinical trials. Bancel said, “Making the first one is a very, very daunting scientific challenge, but once the work of the first one works, the next one becomes very easy: get a new sequence and then produce another vaccine, the same job mode.”

One of the nine vaccines developed by Moderna in collaboration with NIAID is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which is caused by a coronavirus that is different but similar to 2019-nCOV. However, the vaccine has only been tested in animals, and the MERS vaccine relies on a protein on the surface of the virus called spike.

Theoretically, what the team needs to do is exchange the gene sequence to adapt to the 2019-nCoV spike protein to produce a new vaccine. “We have a lot of information about how to make (spike protein),” Graham said. MERS ‘spike protein produces a stronger immune response when in the “stable” conformation, so his team has adjusted the mRNA accordingly. Graham hopes the same technique could be applied to the development of the 2019-nCoV vaccine.

Another company that developed the 2019-nCoV vaccine with the help of CEPI is Inovio, who also started vaccine development in the morning of January 11. Inovio also has a MERS vaccine, which is faster than Moderna’s vaccine, and has already entered human trials.

Both Moderna and Inovio say that within one month from now they can produce enough vaccines to begin animal testing. Inovio CEO said he is looking forward to a R & D competition with Moderna.

CEPI’s third grant will fund researchers at the University of Queensland. The vaccine they are developing consists of viral proteins produced in cell culture, an older vaccine technology. Keith Chappell, a molecular virologist and co-leader of the project, said the “ideal goal” is to be able to prepare candidate vaccines for human testing that will begin 16 weeks from now. “This is incredible speed,” Chappell said. “We cannot guarantee that we can achieve this. Our team is doing everything we can. Let us rest assured that we are not the only team that needs to produce results. “

However, there is still a long way to go after the candidate vaccine is obtained. Researchers will test them in animals to see if they are safe and produce an immune response. After passing this barrier, the company must then obtain regulatory approval before it can initiate Phase I human trials. Phase I human trials will test safety and immune responses in a small number of volunteers who are not at risk for the disease. US FDA approval usually takes 1 month.

In parallel with human trials, researchers hope to test how well the vaccine protects animals that are deliberately exposed to the virus.

It is worth mentioning that vaccine-related work is also being deployed in China.

On January 26, Xu Wenbo, director of the Virus Research Institute of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the center has begun the development of a new coronavirus vaccine. The virus has been successfully isolated and seed strains are being screened. In addition, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting drug screening for new types of coronavirus pneumonia.

The latest news also includes the cooperation between the Translational Medicine Platform of Dongfang Hospital Affiliated to Tongji University and Siwei (Shanghai) Biotechnology Co., Ltd., relying on the “Shanghai Zhangjiang National Independent Innovation Demonstration Zone Stem Cell Strategy Library and Stem Cell Technology Clinical Translation Platform” sub-task— The results of the mRNA synthesis platform quickly promoted the development of new coronavirus mRNA vaccines. Recently, the project has been completed for emergency filing.

However, just as new drug development took longer, vaccines are also not instantaneous.

“Science” also mentioned in the report that in reality, vaccines have slowed down the Zika epidemic that swept Latin America in 2016, the devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, and the pandemic that began in 2009. The role played is actually relatively limited. “Vaccines can’t keep up.”

“Science” magazine writes that in this race against disease, new coronaviruses are far ahead, and when vaccines prove their value in clinical trials and manufacturers are ready to expand production, vaccines may be too late to stop the epidemic. But scientists hope they can make a difference.

Graham mentioned that, in the best case, the Moderna vaccine will perform well in the first phase of the study and is ready for larger and more realistic human testing in the summer. However, past efforts to fight the epidemic and fight for new vaccines have often encountered unexpected slowdowns.

Even if experimental vaccines play a role in clinical trials, rapid mass production of them is a huge challenge. Bancel said that if Moderna puts all its vaccine production capacity into one product, it could produce 100 million doses a year. Kim said that now Inovio can only produce 100,000 doses a year, but “is actively negotiating with larger manufacturers”, which could increase its output to “millions”. The Queensland research team says it can make 200,000 doses in six months.

In the worst case, these vaccines will not be enough to protect the global population. And the World Health Organization (WHO) in the new coronavirus reports on January 26 and January 27, set the global risk of the new coronavirus epidemic as high risk. Bancel said the preparation of the vaccine is always a precautionary measure. “No one knows what will happen,” Bancel said. “We all hope we will never have these vaccines.”

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