With the news on the novel coronavirus pandemic ever-changing, and the search for COVID-19 therapeutics still continuing, it is difficult to stay on top of the goings-on of the therapeutics in development. To help you stay on top of things, Nidhi Parekh of The Shared Microscope writes weekly updates on the therapeutics alone.
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COVID-19 Top Vaccines
Until recently, the global coronavirus pandemic seemed to have slowed down in certain parts of the world, but now it has come full circle. The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns of a “very serious” situation in Europe as cases have rocketed to over 300,000 a week for the first time since the COVID-19 infection, caused by SARS-CoV-2, received the pandemic status. The cases in the US alone have risen to 6.75 million this week, and are only going up. The rise in COVID-19 positive cases and deaths worldwide, has increased the pressure on governments to engage in negotiations with manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines.
There are currently 8 non-repurposed COVID-19 vaccines in the final phase of clinical trials. The results of all these vaccines are currently awaited.
What is the Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine?
Among the top COVID-19 vaccine contenders, is the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine uses a replication-defective viral vector type vaccine – for a jargon-free article explaining these terms, check out our post here.
After a temporary pause, the AstraZeneca trial was resumed in the UK and in Brazil on September 12, 2020. The vaccine was put on hold due to a suspected adverse reaction towards the vaccine. It was later found that the neurological condition was not caused by the vaccine. For a report on the condition, check out this news article by the CNN.
The trial has still not been resumed in the U.S. However CNN reports that it is “just a matter of time” before the vaccine’s trials are resumed in the U.S.
To learn more about how the vaccine works, how it trains our immune system, how it’s made, the evidence behind how the vaccine works, etc. check out our post here.
Counting down the days until there is a COVID-19 vaccine and the novel coronavirus pandemic is over? Nidhi Parekh of The Shared Microscope and Sheeva Azma of Fancy Comma, LLC are here to discuss a front-runner in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. In this post, we talk about the Moderna mRNA vaccine — and help you learn more about how it works and why it is so promising.
What is the Moderna Vaccine?
The Moderna vaccine is an mRNA type vaccine – it contains all the necessary information on how to produce the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. For more on how this vaccine works, feel free to check out our blog post here.
Moderna have confirmed that “as of Friday, September 18, 2020, 25,976 participants have been enrolled in the Phase 3 COVE [Coronavirus Efficacy] study” conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). In addition to this, they also add that “28.5% of participants enrolled cumulatively are from diverse communities.” 11,879 participants have received their second dose of the vaccination and will undergo observation should any problems with safety and efficacy be identified.
3. Sinovac’s CoronaVac Vaccine
What is the CoronaVac Vaccine?
CoronaVac is a vaccine of the inactivated type, being developed by Sinovac Pharmaceuticals. This means that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is harvested in bulk, and then killed/inactivated so it can no longer cause any disease. The inactivated version of the virus is then injected into our body to raise a robust immune response. For more on this vaccine and how it works, check out our blog post here.
As per the preliminary Phase II Clinical Trial results from August 10, 2020, CoronaVac was well tolerated in participants aged 18-59 years and revealed no dose-related concerns.
In addition to this, Sinovac has announced that it will launch Phase I and II clinical trials to test their vaccine in over 500 children and adolescents aged 3-17 years.
4. Cansino’s Ad5-nCoV
What is Cansino’s Ad5-nCoV vaccine?
Cansino’s vaccine, like the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, uses a replication-defective adenovirus viral vector.
This vaccine was in the spotlight back in June, when it received approval for military use in China. Earlier this week, it has been reported that researchers of this COVID-19 vaccine plan to give volunteers an additional dose of this vaccine. The new two-dose study will test the safety and efficacy of two doses of the vaccine.
5. Unnamed Inactive Vaccine – Wuhan
What is the inactive vaccine from Wuhan?
The Wuhan Institute of Biological Products developed an inactivated vaccine, created by first harvesting the viral particles and then inactivating them using heat or chemicals. For this reason, the vaccine is similar to the CoronaVac vaccine listed above.
Phase I/II trials of this vaccine showed a production of antibodies in volunteers injected with it. Participants in this study showed a low rate of adverse reactions like fever. On September 14, the U.A.E gave emergency to use this vaccine on healthcare workers in the United Arab Emirates. Trials are also ongoing in Peru and Morocco.
6. Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV
What is Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV?
Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV again, like Sinovac’s CoronaVac and Wuhan’s unnamed vaccine candidate, is a vaccine of the inactivated type. Upon vaccination, our body is able to generate a diverse immune response against the virus, to protect against future infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
According to Sinopharm’s press release, vaccination with BBIBP-CorV generates high numbers of neutralising antibodies in Phase I/II trials. On September 14, the U.A.E gave emergency to use this vaccine on healthcare workers in the United Arab Emirates. Results from this trial, too, are awaited.
7. BioNTech and Pfizer’s BNT162b2
What is BioNtech and Pfizer’s BNT162 Vaccine?
BioNTech and Pfizer have collaborated with Chinese drug maker Fosun Pharma to develop an mRNA vaccine, much like the vaccine in development by Moderna. The messenger RNA in this vaccine is a pre-fusion stabilised membrane-anchored SARS-CoV-2 full-length spike protein. Once vaccinated, host cells take up the mRNA, generate the spike proteins, and then present them to the immune system. The immune system recognises these spikes as foreign and generates an immune response against the spike protein.
In early July, the Phase I/II clinical trials of this vaccine demonstrated that they were safe and tolerable in the doses used in vaccination. In addition to this, the vaccine also elicits a robust immune response.
Although Phase III results are currently awaited, Pfizer have reported that they see “mostly mild to moderate” safety profile in Phase III of their COVID-19 vaccine study. The mild to moderate symptoms reported include fatigue, headache, joint pain, diarrhea or chills. This vaccine certainly sounds very promising however, it is essential that we wait for further results to be released. According to the CEO of Pfizer, the vaccine may be ready as early as late October.
It should be noted that the protocol to study this vaccine has been published following pressure from scientists.
8. The Russian Gam-COVID-Vac
What is the Gam-COVID-Vac?
The Gam-COVID-Vac, or the Sputnik V, is a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute (Russia).
The Gam-COVID-Vac vaccine was approved prematurely, having only been tested on 38 people in Phase I/II trials. The results from Phase I/II study show the production of neutralising antibodies on vaccination, however, the levels of these antibodies are lower than those reported on vaccination using the Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine. However, this too is disputed by Gamaleya’s press release.
The vaccine has entered Phase III trials with an enrolment of 40,000 participants in Russia. In addition to this, Russia has negotiated agreements to supply the vaccine to several countries including Brazil and India.
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