Global Hunt for Coronavirus Vaccine

Dr Ruchi Khajuria

At this point, it is difficult to gauge the impact, the novel coronavirus is having on society. Millions infected, tens of thousands dead. Financial markets in ruin. People out of work, social isolation and everyone wondering that when will this end which is the hardest question to answer. Currently the experts estimate that the worst of the impact should be over in few months but even after this initial search is over, there is a chance that virus will persist in the population coming back again and again. There is also a possibility that the virus could act seasonally every winter. Scientists and well everyone fiercely hope that this is not the case, but there is the possibility it just doesn’t go the way on its own. Even only after a few weeks everyone can feel that this lockdown is unsustainable. If the virus does come back again next year, the prospect of having this complete lockdown again seems devastating. So, there is an urgent need to find a way to prevent new infection and because of this, the race for the vaccine is on. Researchers are moving at breakneck speed and the progress has been made ridiculously fast to develop a vaccine against surging coronavirus pandemic cases and currently there are seven front-runners in the race of vaccine as per the WHO, all of which have entered human trials. So this news is really promising to us.
Vaccines are one of the greatest inventions of medicine and prevent an estimated 2-3 million deaths every year. The main aim of vaccination is to stimulate the immune system with the infectious agent or its module which is modified in such a way that no diseases is caused, by making sure that when the host is confronted with that infectious agent, the immune system can sufficiently neutralize it before it causes any ill effect. The first vaccine to be discovered was smallpox vaccine by Edward Jenner in 1796. In present scenario, the vaccines which are competing are:
This vaccine was developed in less than three months by a team of doctors at the Oxford University and has begun its first trial in human on April 23, 2020. The pre-clinical research was lead by Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford. The vaccine is named so because it is made from a virus (ChAdOx1) which is a weakened version of common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infection in Chimpanzees. This virus has been genetically modified so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans. The scientists are so much optimistic that they have even taken the risk of ordering mass production of the vaccine. Scientists have taken genes from the spike proteins that are on the surface of the coronavirus and put them into the harmless Adenovirus to make the vaccine which is then injected to the person. Vaccine after entering the cells of the person then starts to produce coronavirus spike proteins which prompts the immune system to produce antibodies and activate killer T-cells to destroy the infected cells inside the body. If the patient encounters coronavirus again, the antibodies and killer T-cells are triggered again to fight with the virus quickly. But the question is when will the result be available? According to the researchers, the results will depend on the level of transmission in the community. If the transmission is high, then the result will be available in the couple of months, but if the transmission will drop, it could take up to 6 months. If fewer people are infected, it will take longer to know whether a vaccine actually works. This vaccine is currently in combined phase I/II clinical trial.
AD5-NCOV is the second vaccine candidate developed by Chinese biotech firm CanSino Biologics Inc. in alliance with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. Conceptually, this vaccine is similar to the British ChAdOx1. AD5-NCOV is a genetically engineered vaccine with the replication-defective Adenovirus Type 5 as the vector to express SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This Chinese vaccine has been named as a top contender by World Health Organization (WHO) in the global race for the development of vaccine as the candidate has already completed phase I clinical trial which was started on April 10, 2020 and is presently in Phase II trial.
This is another vaccine competitor in the race designed by American bio-technology company INOVIO Pharmaceuticals Inc. for immunization against the COVID-19 coronavirus. INOVIO is the first and the only company to have clinically confirmed that a DNA medicine can be delivered directly into the cells in the body by means of a smart device to generate a robust and tolerable immune response. INO-4800 vaccine is based on latest method of getting the body’s own cells to generate the fragments of coronavirus which is done by injecting DNA into the body. As the injected DNA includes the genetic code of the coronavirus’s spike proteins, which would be read by the body’s cells to produce those spike proteins and thus activating the immune system. The vaccine is currently in Phase I clinical trial which was started on April 3, 2020.
Inactivated Chinese Candidate
The inactivated vaccine candidate developed by Wuhan Institute of Biological Products under the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) uses dead coronavirus cells to activate immunity against the lethal virus. Albeit, the vaccine is
listed on World Health Organizations’ database but is quite unadvertised outside of Chinese media. The Chinese candidate is currently in Phase II clinical trials.
Purified inactivated coronavirus vaccine (PICoVacc) is also the Chinese candidate developed by the private biopharmaceutical company, Sinovac Biotech. The vaccine induces coronavirus neutralizing antibodies to elicit response from the immune system. The vaccine is under phase I of human trials which was began on April 13, 2020.
m RNA 1273
The vaccine mRNA 1273 was developed by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) scientists and their collaborators at the biotechnology company Moderna, Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts along with the support of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI). The vaccine works on messanger RNA (m RNA) concept. The mRNA-1273 encodes for a stable form of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The vaccine after injecting mRNA into the body produces immune response. mRNA 1273 is currently in Phase I clinical trial which was started on March 3, 2020.
BNT 162 mRNA
BNT 162 vaccine is jointly developed by German company BioNTech and US Pharmaceutical Corporation Pfizer, is also based on mRNA concept. At present, the vaccine is under phase I clinical trials which are expected to take about a year to complete.
INDIA’s Effort
India is also playing an important role in developing vaccine against coronavirus. In fact India is working together with WHO and few others International agencies to speed up technology transfer for developing a vaccine in the country. Presently, half a dozen Indian firms are busy in making vaccine, either independently or in partnership with International companies. Pune based Serum Institute of India, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, produces over 1.5 billion doses and immunizes over 65 per cent of the children worldwide has also united to mass produce a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, ChAdOx1nCoV-19. In fact, the institute has taken the risk of initiating production even before the vaccine has reached advanced clinical trials.
Therefore, the research work is under process in developing the vaccine for this deadly virus as the exit from this deadly COVID can only be possible with an effective vaccine. There is always a harmonious, complementary, and a productive coexistence between faith and true science (the one guided by the reason). So, let’s have faith in our research and Corona warriors who are toiling hard to get results as early as possible and save the mankind from the blows of the virus.
More power to the Science and Scientists!!
(The author is Govt.Teacher at GHSS Rehal, Bishnah)