On Wednesday, in a statement, the University of Cambridge said, it aims to start clinical trials of its COVID-19 candidate in autumn.
The development comes in the wake following funding to the tune of 1.9 million pounds from the British government.
The approach adopted by the scientists behind the vaccine uses genetic sequences of all known coronaviruses to hone the immune response in the hope that it could help avoid the adverse effects of a hyper-inflammatory immune response.
“We’re looking for chinks in its armour, crucial pieces of the virus that we can use to construct the vaccine to direct the immune response in the right direction,” said Jonathan Heeney, head of the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics at the University of Cambridge. “Ultimately we aim to make a vaccine that will not only protect from SARS-CoV-2, but also other related coronaviruses that may spill over from animals to humans.”
Incidentally, not a single vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which causes COVID-19 has yet to be proven effective clinically. Nearly 30 vaccines using a range of technologies are in the midst of human trials.
The University of Cambridge is using a DNA based approach, with its candidate called DIOS-CoVax2.
Its candidate uses computer-generated antigen structures that are encoded by synthetic genes, which can then re-programme the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against the coronavirus.
“This DNA vector method has been shown to be safe and effective at stimulating an immune response in other pathogens in early stage trials,” said the university.
Incidentally, Cambridge candidate, the DIOS-CoVax2, need not be stored at cold temperatures and can be delivered without needles, thus making widespread distribution that much more easier.
“This could be a major breakthrough in being able to give a future vaccine to huge numbers of people across the world,” said Saul Faust, Director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility.