News updates: nano-based vaccines and therapeutics for treatment of COVID-19

Written by Lucy Chard (Future Science Group)

COVID-19 vaccine trials and updates

A timeline of responses from researchers, biotechnology companies and funding bodies in a global effort to develop, test and distribute vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 as quickly and safely as possible.


NIH-Moderna vaccine candidate preclinical results are published

5th August date headerThe NIH-Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 is currently undergoing Phase III human clinical trials in the USA. The research that led to this progression has now been published in Nature.
The paper details the preclinical experiements that were undertaken in mice. When mice were injected with the experimental vaccine it induced a robust CD8 T-cell response and an influx of neutralizing antibodies. The authors state that the results, along with data from further studies support the progression of mRNA-1273 to clinical efficacy trial testing.

The full results from the study can be found here >>>


Vaccine raising neutralizing antibodies ‘robustly protects’ non-human primates

A team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (MA, USA) and Johnson & Johnson (NJ, USA) has reported success in non-human primate trials of a vaccine utilizing a common cold virus (adenovirus serotype 26/Ad26) to deliver the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein into host cells, raising neutralizing antibodies.

The results, described in Nature, suggested that a single shot immunization may be effective in protecting non-human primates from detectable COVID-19 in the lungs.

To read the full press release, see here >>>


‘Potent and diverse’ antibodies identified for SARS-CoV-2 targeting

antibodiesResearchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center (NY, USA) have identified several antibodies that show strong neutralizing effects against SARS-CoV-2. The team obtained the antibodies from COVID-19 patients and on purifying the antibodies and testing in hamsters, they found that their collection of antibodies were more potent and more diverse than others already identified. The team say they are ready to be progressed into treatments for further testing. The research is published in Nature >>>

To view the full press release, see here >>>


Cyro-EM gives better visualization of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein

cyro-em spike proteinScientists from Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA) report two new cryo-EM structures representing the pre- and postfusion conformations of the full-length spike protein present in SARS-CoV-2. By gaining a deeper understanding of how the two structures differ, scientists can discover what happens to the virus on entering a host cell, and this can inform research into better vaccines and therapeutics.

The information is available in a paper published in Science >>>


How nanomaterials are paving the way for COVID-19 vaccine development

15 July date cardA report released by the University of California – San Diego (UC San Diego, CA, USA) reviews the current approaches to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and how nanotechnology plays a key role in many of these. The report states that as of June 1, there are 157 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development, 12 of which are currently undergoing clinical trials of various stages.
Different vaccine types are evaluated, including peptide-based vaccines and nucleic-acid based vaccines, as well as different delivery techniques such as the use of microneedle platforms.

The full article has been published in Nature Nanotechnology and can be found here >>>

Read more from UC San Diego, here >>>


Moderna report promising interim results from Phase I vaccine trial

Pink date header

An mRNA vaccine developed by Moderna, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, USA) with researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health for use against COVID-19 has shown promising interim results in a Phase I trial.

The vaccine, mRNA-1273, induces neutralizing antibody responses in patients against the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. The interim results from the trial, including 120 participants, show above average neutralizing antibody activity and no serious adverse side effects.

Enrolling for the Phase II trial took in May 2020 and Moderna have announced plans for commencing a Phase III efficacy trial on 27 July of this year.

For the full press release see here >>>


Nanobodies could provide immunity against SARS-CoV-2

timeline header The collaborative team from The Rosalind Franklin Institute, Oxford University, Diamond Light Source (all Oxford, UK) and Public Health England (London, UK) have tested their nanobody technology (based on llama antibodies) against SARS-CoV-2. They have found that when used in different combinations the nanobodies show effective immunization against the virus and are hoping to progress to testing in the clinic.

For the full news release see our sister site, Infectious Diseases Hub, here >>>


Gene encoding for potent SARS-CoV-2 antibodies identified

timeline header Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla, CA, USA), have recently published a paper in Science that identifies a gene – IGHV3-53 – that encodes for especially potent antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The team state that antibodies encoded for by this gene exist in small numbers in healthy human blood, therefore boosting these numbers could provide protection against the virus.


Potent neutralizing antibody vaccine for rapid protection against SARS-CoV-2

neutralizing antibody vaccine dateA team of researchers led by Florian Klein (Professor at Cologne University Hospital, Germany) and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF; Braunschweig, Germany) have studied how neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 develop and used this information to isolate 28 particularly potent neutralizing antibodies. The research has been published in Cell.

“Our goal was to better understand the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and to identify highly potent antibodies that could be used to prevent and treat COVID-19,” explained Klein.

If these antibodies can be formed quickly as and when needed, a vaccine could be developed in the near future to provide rapid protection against SARS-CoV-2.

The full news release can be found here >>>


Neutralizing antibodies could be used to prevent future coronavirus outbreaks

vaccine timeline headerResearch papers have recently been published looking into the discovery and uses of neutralizing antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 infection. One study has taken monoclonal antibodies from COVID-19 patients and analyzed these for neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Research efforts including electron microscopy imaging and competition studies have demostrated that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein contains multiple distinct antigenic sites, including several receptor-binding domain epitopes as well as non-receptor binding domain epitopes. These antibodies could be used in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 including the development of vaccines. The full research paper published in Science can be found here >>> 

Another study looked into the neutralizing effects of antibodies that are also found to react with a bat-specific coronavirus, which could lead to the identification of broadly neutralizing antibodies that can be used to protect against potential new coronavirus outbreaks in the future.

More on this news release can be found here >>>


Moderna COVID-19 vaccine protocol set for Phase III trial to start in July

11th June date cardThe Moderna Phase III clinical trial progresses as the protocol has been finalized. The vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, is expected to be tested in 30,000 patients at a dose of 100 μg from July, in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The dose of 100 μg was decided upon as it incites a strong immune response whilst minimizing any side effects. The company are on track to scale up production to be able to produce 500 million vaccines per year.

Latest updates on the Moderna vaccine trial can be found here >>>


Cancer immunotherapy tools adapted to target SARS-CoV-2 proteins for vaccines

vaccine dateScientists working in cancer research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP; PA, USA) have adapted cancer immunnotherapy tools so that they can target the SARS-CoV-2 virus with a vaccine. The researchers have generated a list of 65 peptide sequences to target, which could lead to immunity when distributed in populations.

For the full article in Cell Reports Medicine see here >>>


Imperial College London announces start of RNA vaccine trial in the UK

timeline date header JuneImperial College London (UK) have developed a self-amplifying RNA vaccine that can be used to target the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 and induce an immune response. The vaccine has shown to be effective in increasing antibodies and in acting as a neutralizing agent against COVID-19 in mice. The researchers have announced that a Phase I/II human clinical trial will commence on the 15th June 202o enrolling 300 people.

For more information on the work from Imperial College London, visit here >>>

For a summary of a recent webinar on the saRNA vaccine development process, see here >>>


INOVIO DNA vaccine starts human trials in South Korea

vaccine candidate trial dateINOVIO, funded by CEPI, is due to start their 2-stage trial of INO-4800 – a vaccine developed for use against COVID-19 – in South Korea by the end of June. The trial includes 40 healthy adults aged 19-50 years and will soon enroll a further 120 people in the age bracket of 19-64 years to assess the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the INO-4800 DNA vaccine.

“The trial is a crucial step in the development of an urgently needed COVID-19 vaccine. South Korea is one of the first countries in the world set to test a COVID-19 vaccine (after the USA, China, UK and Germany) and we are happy to collaborate with South Korean partners to accelerate clinical development of a COVID-19 vaccine through our partnership with INOVIO and CEPI,” stated Jerome Kim, Director General of IVI.

For more information on the ongoing trial, see here >>>


DNA vaccine shows protective effects against SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus macaque model

Vaccine timeline date MayA research team involving scientists from Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA) have developed a rhesus macaque model of SARS-CoV-2 infection on which to test a series of DNA vaccine candidates. They used neutralizing antibody titres as an immune correlate of protection. The experiments showed an effective level of vaccine protection and further work will be conducted to expedite a human vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-2. Read the full research article published in Science.


MERS-CoV RNA vaccine in development for SARS-CoV-2 use

Vaccine may date graphicThe Korea Institute of Science and Technology (Sejong, South Korea) have been working together with the Catholic University of Korea (Seoul, South Korea) on an RNA-based vaccine developed for use against MERS-CoV (of the coronavirus family), including testing on non-human primates. The vaccine stabilizes the spike protein on the surface of the virus and enables a stronger immune response. This vaccine platform is expected to be used in the development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. More information on this nanformulated RNA-based adjuvant can be found in Angewandte Chemie.


Pfizer and BioNTech launch Phase I/II clinical trial for mRNA vaccines

Vaccine timeline MayPfizer, in collaboration with BioNTech, announces the start of a Phase I/II clinical trial to test four of their mRNA vaccines. The New York University Grossman School of Medicine (NY, USA) and the University of Maryland (MD, USA) are the first centers to enroll patients for the trial in the USA. One or two doses of the vaccines or a placebo will be administered to the healthy patients. Two of the vaccines contain viral RNA that encodes for spike proteins and two contain receptor-binding domains.

For more information on this vaccine trial, see here >>>


DNA-based nanoparticle vaccine can be inhaled directly into the lungs

COVID-19 vaccine timeline date graphicA research team at Penn State University (PA, USA) led by Scott Medina of the Medina Group have been working on a DNA-based nanoparticle aerosol vaccine that can be used to tackle SARS-CoV-2. The inhalable vaccine would be able to enter the lung and the nanoparticles would target respiratory immune cells, which stimulate the transported DNA to produce viral proteins. This technology was originally developed for a universal influenza vaccine and is now being refocused to help with the current COVID-19 vaccine effort.

For more information on this inhalable vaccine, see here.


CEPI encourages global collaboration on INO-4800 vaccine

Vaccine timeline date graphicCEPI has granted funding to INOVIO to encourage collaboration with Korea National Institute of Health (Osong, Republic of Korea) and The International Vaccine Institute (IVI; Seoul, South Korea) to conduct a parallel Phase I/II trial of the INO-4800 DNA vaccine in South Korea. By increasing testing, researchers are hoping to have a better idea of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine so that they can scale up processes ready for further clinical trials and GMP manufacturing.

See more on this here >>>


Nasal delivery for DNA vaccine

Vaccine timeline date graphicResearchers from the University of Waterloo (ON, Canada) have developed a concept for a vaccine that can be delivered via a nasal spray. The vaccine is DNA-based, loaded with an engineered bacteriophage that targets specific cells in the respiratory tract. By administering as a nasal spray, the vaccine can be delivered directly to target tissues in the lower respiratory tract. Once the vaccine enters these cells, it will incite the production of a virus-like particle that is similar to SARS-CoV-2, which stimulates an immune response in humans. The particle will also bind to similar receptors as SARS-CoV-2 and therefore block the virus. Further testing is required to perfect the design and you can read more on this here >>>


Nanostructured peptide-delivery vehicle for COVID-19 treatment

Vaccine timeline date graphicNorthwestern University (MA, USA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, USA) have come together to take antiviral peptides that bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and adhere them to a nanodelivery platform, ensuring their stability in the body. The collaboration could mean vaccines and therapeutic techniques can be elucidated much faster in the future.

Read the full article here >>>


Pfizer collaborates with BioNTech in COVID-19 vaccine program

Vaccine timeline date graphicBioNTech (Mainz, Germany), a biotechnology company that focuses on the use of DNA for precision therapeutics has developed a vaccine – BNT162 – that could be used against COVID-19. The vaccine contains a form of mRNA encapsulated in a lipid nanoparticle and could trigger an antibody response on binding with SARS-CoV-2. Now, Pfizer (NY, USA), has joined with BioNTech to drive development of the vaccine and have announced they expect to start clinical Phase I/II trials in April 2020. For more information see here >>>


Novavax identifies coronavirus vaccine candidate

Vaccine timeline date graphicVaccine development company, Novavax (MD, USA) have set into motion a nanoparticle-technology based vaccine – NVX-CoV2373 – for starting Phase I trials in the middle of May 2020. The vaccine produces a high concentration of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and antibodies that block the binding sites of the coronavirus, as demonstrated in animal models. A particular point of interest about this vaccine is the microneutralization titers, which are high after one dose and increases eight fold with the second dose, showing that the vaccine has high immunogenic properties and suggests good protective effects in humans.

For further information visit the Novavax page here >>>


INOVIO initiates Phase I clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine timeline date graphicAs one of the first vaccine candidates to be selected by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI; Oslo, Norway), the INOVIO (PA, USA) DNA vaccine – INO-4800 – has entered a Phase I clinical trial and doses the first patients. The DNA vaccine has thus far showed promise in multiple animal trials, with a good immune response, and the vaccine can now be tested in the first 40 human volunteers. The hope is to move the vaccine through trial phases successfully and scale up manufacturing ready for emergency use.

See more from INOVIO here >>>


PittCoVacc microneedle array vaccine delivery

Vaccine timeline date graphicThe University of Pittsburgh (PA, USA) are working on repurposing vaccine technology used in the Zika virus epidemic and previous coronavirus outbreaks for use against COVID-19. Their vaccine, termed PittCoVacc, contains nanosized pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that is administered using a microneedle array to induce an immune reaction.

To read the full news article see our sister site, Infectious Diseases Hub here >>>


Moderna vaccine trial continues

Vaccine timeline date graphicThe mRNA vaccine developed by Moderna – mRNA-1273 – is undergoing a Phase I trial in the USA and the first patients have now been dosed.

Take a look at the full news release and a timeline of response from Moderna here >>>


Initial collation of vaccine trials and therapeutics

Vaccine timeline date graphic

In March of this year, a specialized division, the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS; Columbus, OH, USA), of the American Chemical Society issued a special report in ACS Central Science in which they summarized the current published information on therapeutics and vaccines undergoing testing for use against COVID-19. One candidate, a virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine, was patented in 2015 by Novavax (MD, USA), initially for use against MERS-CoV. It contained a least one trimer of the spike protein characteristic of coronaviruses and was shown to incite a neutralizing antibody response in mice.

The team from CAS also highlighted a mRNA-1273 vaccine developed by Moderna (Cambridge, MA, USA), which was undergoing a Phase I study in the USA.

For more information on this study, see the full news release here >>>

For further updates regarding vaccines and therapeutics visit our dedicated COVID-19 Hub here >>>

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