‘Oxford vaccine may protect against future COVID outbreaks’, says report

Scientists have developed a proactive vaccinology approach vaccine, Quartet Nanocage, offering protection against various coronaviruses, including potential future outbreaks.

Livemint
Updated8 May 2024
New Oxford study suggests vaccine may prevent future coronaviruses. (AP)
New Oxford study suggests vaccine may prevent future coronaviruses. (AP)

Scientists have developed a vaccine with a new approach called ‘proactive vaccinology,' which has shown protection in mice against a broad range of coronaviruses with potential for future disease outbreaks, according to a new study published in the journal, ‘Nature Nanotechnology’ on Monday. 

Under the proactive vaccinology vaccine development process, scientists develop vaccines preemptively, often before the disease-causing pathogen even emerges.

The vaccine, 'Quartet Nanocage', developed by Oxford and Caltech, is expected to commence phase one clinical trials in early 2025. However, its intricate design poses manufacturing challenges that may constrain large-scale production.

The new vaccine functions by instructing the body's immune system to identify particular regions of eight distinct coronaviruses, encompassing SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2, and several strains presently prevalent in bats, which hold the potential to cross over to humans and trigger a pandemic. 

The vaccine's efficacy relies on its ability to target specific virus regions shared among various coronaviruses. By training the immune system to combat these regions, it offers protection against other coronaviruses not directly included in the vaccine, including those yet to be discovered.

For instance, although the new vaccine excludes the SARS-CoV-1 coronavirus responsible for the 2003 SARS outbreak, it still triggers an immune response against it.

Rory Hills, the first author of the report, said, “Our focus is to create a vaccine that will protect us against the next coronavirus pandemic and have it ready before the pandemic has even started.”

“We’ve created a vaccine that provides protection against a broad range of different coronaviruses – including ones we don’t even know about yet,” the graduate researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Pharmacology said as quoted in the study. 

Another senior author, Professor Mark Howarth, said scientists swiftly developed an exceptionally effective COVID vaccine during the last pandemic. However, the world still faced a monumental crisis, resulting in a significant number of deaths.

“We don’t have to wait for new coronaviruses to emerge. We know enough about coronaviruses, and different immune responses to them, that we can get going with building protective vaccines against unknown coronaviruses now,” Howarth said. 

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