The pressure is on the drug makers to develop coronavirus vaccines as the deadly disease shows no signs of stopping. However, it is not that easy.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that it would take at least a year and a half to have a vaccine for coronavirus. But usually, a vaccine takes about five to 15 years to come to the market, according to Jon Andrus, an adjunct professor of global vaccinology and vaccine policy at the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University.
In general, timelines in making vaccines are hard to compress. The last thing that drug makers and regulators want is to have a rushed and subpar drug because that will create another health crisis rather than solve it.
However, with the health crisis that the world is in, experts around the world are racing to create a vaccine that could finally put a stop on this pandemic. In Italy, they are claiming that they have finally made the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, but would it work?
Most advanced stage of a coronavirus vaccine candidate
According to the tests carried out at Rome’s infectious-disease Spallanzani Hospital, an Italian coronavirus vaccine has antibodies generated in mice that work on human cells.
After testing the vaccine, they found that it has neutralized the virus in human cells, a first since the race for a coronavirus vaccine begun in the world, said Luigi Aurisicchio, the CEO of Takis, a firm developing the medication.
He told the Italian news agency ANSA that so far, this is the most advanced stage of testing of a candidate vaccine created in Italy. Human tests are expected to begin in summer, he added.
He further explains that Takis is exploring more interesting technological platforms with an American drug company, LineaRx.
The company is currently working hard for a vaccine coming from Italian research, with an all-Italian and innovative technology, tested in Italy, which will be made available for everyone once testing is completed.
For this research to succeed, they need the support not only from their government but as well as international institutions and partners who might want to extend their hand to help speed up the process.
“This is not a competition. If we join our forces and skills together, we can all win against coronavirus,” said Aurisicchio.
Testing the vaccine on mice
The scientists used mice in testing their vaccine. Just after a single vaccination, the mice developed antibodies that block the virus from infecting the human cells. Researchers chose 2 of the five vaccine candidates with the best results after observing them.
They first isolated the serum from the antibody-rich blood, then analyzed it in the virology laboratory of the Spallanzani Institute. The next step for the scientists is to understand how long the immune response will last.
All of the vaccine candidates currently being developed are based on the genetic material of DNA protein “spike.” The vaccine candidate uses the so-called “electroporation” technique to help them break into the cells and activate the immune system.
Researchers believe that this makes their vaccine especially effective for generating functional antibodies against “spike” protein in the lung cells, which are the most vulnerable to the virus.
Dr. Emanuele Marra from Takis explained that the immunity generated by most of the five vaccine candidates affects the virus. The scientists expect better results on their next trial. He added that the vaccine candidates could adapt to any COVID-19 evolutions and its possible mutations.