Trial drug against novel coronavirus successful in mice

Trial drug against novel coronavirus successful in mice

New York: A potential vaccine under trial against the deadly novel coronavirus was successful when tested in mice, raising hopes of its early commercial use.

Scientists of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found the vaccine PittCoVacc, short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine, produced antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 at quantities thought to be sufficient for neutralizing the virus, when injected in the rodents.

The paper appeared in EBioMedicine, published by The Lancet, and is the first study to be published after critique from fellow scientists at outside institutions that describes a candidate vaccine for COVID-19. The researchers were able to act quickly because they had already laid the groundwork during earlier coronavirus epidemics.

"We had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014. These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus. We knew exactly where to fight this new virus," said co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine.

The vaccine works the same way as that of the current flu shots. Compared to the experimental mRNA vaccine candidate that just entered clinical trials, the vaccine follows a more established approach, using lab-made pieces of viral protein to build immunity.

The researchers also used a novel approach to deliver the drug, called a microneedle array, to increase potency. This array is a fingertip-sized patch of 400 tiny needles that delivers the spike protein pieces into the skin, where the immune reaction is strongest. The patch goes on like a Band-Aid and then the needles -- which are made entirely of sugar and the protein pieces -- simply dissolve into the skin.

When tested in mice, PittCoVacc generated a surge of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 within two weeks of the microneedle prick. Researchers pointed out that the mice who got their MERS-CoV vaccine produced a sufficient level of antibodies to neutralize the virus for at least a year, and so far the antibody levels of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccinated animals seem to be following the same trend.

Importantly, the SARS-CoV-2 microneedle vaccine maintains its potency even after being thoroughly sterilized with gamma radiation -- a key step toward making a product that's suitable for use in humans.

The authors are in the process of applying for an investigational new drug approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in anticipation of starting a phase I human clinical trial in the next few months.

first-banner
.
second-banner

0 Comments

Leave a comment

bottom-banner