Is this the silver bullet to end covid?

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).reuters
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).reuters

Summary

At least 5 global vaccine developers at work to find a lasting solution to tackle the pandemic

At least five global vaccine developers are jointly working on a new coronavirus vaccine as mutations and the emergence of new variants push scientists worldwide to collaborate and find a lasting solution to tackle the pandemic.

Last Friday, a panel led by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the need for a so-called pan-sarbecovirus vaccine saw presentations by infectious diseases experts, and five vaccine makers from France, Canada, South Korea and the UK, who shared their plans on developing a booster vaccine that could offer broad protection against existing Alpha, Delta, Omicron variants, and a wild type of variant or background variant that has yet to see any new mutation so far.

Canada’s Medigen and VBI vaccines, South Korea’s SK Bioscience, France’s OSIVAX and UK-based DIOSynVax presented their plans for the pan-coronavirus vaccine. Medigen is expected to start production of its candidate vaccine by June that will be also be part of WHO’s solidarity vaccine trial.

There are currently nine known coronaviruses that are known to infect humans; besides bats, animal-to-human transmission has been found to happen with camels as seen with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and porcine.

The initial urgency needed to avert severe disease and hospitalization among covid-19 patients had led pharma companies to work on vaccines that offered protection against Alpha variant and subsequently, Delta. However, most vaccines have so far failed to prevent infection against the Omicron variant, leading researchers to go back to the drawing board.

Earlier in January, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI) announced $200 million worth of funding to French-Thai vaccine developer BioNet for pre-clinical and clinical studies (phase 1 and 2) to advance their work on the candidate that could provide protection against the broad SARS-CoV-2 and beta coronavirus variants.

“The emergence of the Omicron variant serves as a stark reminder of the ever-present threat posed by new variants that might evade the protection of our current vaccines, threatening the progress the world has made over the past year," CEPI said in a statement on 25 January.

According to CEPI, it was critical that besides vaccinating the underserved countries, efforts should be made to increase research and development work to improve the current covid-19 vaccines to make them more effective against multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2.

WHO is running a vaccine solidarity trial in collaboration with countries such as Colombia, the Philippines, and Mali. Vaccines from Medigen and US-based Inovia pharma will be part of this trial. Serum Institute of India and its US partner Codagenix, who are working on a live attenuated vaccine candidate, are also expected to be participate, according to the statement by WHO.

Among the established players, US vaccine maker Moderna has already started work on a multivalent vaccine using antigens from other variants and an Omicron-specific booster shot. The study is in phase 2 of clinical trials.

Among Indian companies, Biological E and its US partner, Baylor College are working on a pan coronavirus vaccine candidate.

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