With a race of research and developments to produce a safe, effective and accessible vaccine for COVID-19, the idea of wrapping up pandemic seems possible with several research and trails that are happening rapidly around the world to end the novel coronavirus.
In the latest developments, US company Moderna Inc, one of the front runners in the vaccine race, has initiated its trials on patients in a mid-stage study while Russian scientists have planned to begin clinical trials within two weeks. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus infection will be ready by the end of the year. The top US epidemiologist said in an interview that if all things fall at the right place, possibly we might have a vaccine for COVID-19 by November and December.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 100 vaccines are being developed around the world, with a group of candidates already in human trials. So far, China’s CanSino adenovirus vaccine, Oxford University’s adenovirus vaccine, Moderna’s mRNA vaccine emerged as the topmost promising vaccine for COVID-19.
India is also developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus and will begin testing it in October, according to the Principal Scientific Adviser of the Indian government. He said that pre-clinical studies are likely to be completed by that period, following which it is likely to proceed for human trials.
According to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is a foundation that tracks the global Covid-19 R&D landscape, there were at least 115 ongoing vaccine initiatives worldwide as of April 2020 and out of which five are in early-stage clinical trials. In India, at least seven companies and research institutions are working on developing a vaccine candidate using different technological platforms and approaches. The CEPI notes that the “global vaccine R&D effort in response to the Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in terms of magnitude and speed”.
A Chinese vaccine, being jointly developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and China National Biotec Group Co, has completed phase II testing and may be ready for the market at the end of this year or early next year, as per a report published by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
The report, quoted by Reuters, said the production line for the vaccine would be fully disinfected would have a full manufacturing capacity of 100 million-120 million vaccines each year. The vaccine candidate applies a killed version of the novel coronavirus that can still trigger an immune response.
As of now, five vaccines in total developed by Chinese companies are being tested on humans, the most in any country. Sinovac Biotech, a Chinese biopharmaceutical company has placed hope on its inactivated vaccine, dubbed CoronaVac, and said it was 99 percent positive of its efficacy. As per a Sky News report, Luo Baishan, a researcher at Sinovac, said, “It must be successful…99 percent sure.”
The company has reached stage II of its vaccine trial, with more than 1000 volunteers participating. The company is in preliminary discussions to hold stage III trials – the final part of the process in the UK. In a published report in the academic journal Science last month, Sinovac said its vaccine protected monkeys from infection by the coronavirus.
Sinovac’s research and development subsidiary have received $15 million from private equity firms Advantech Capital and Vivo Capital to fund the development of the vaccine. Besides, the company has also been assigned a large factory to produce its coronavirus vaccine, to be able to produce 100 million doses.
Moderna Inc, a US firm, recently said it had started dosing patients in a mid-stage study with its experimental coronavirus vaccine and eventually plans to enroll 600 patients for the trial. The move indicates that the company’s mRNA vaccine has passed its initial safety checks. Moderna plans to begin late-stage trials in July, Reuters reported.
In a press statement, Moderna said the first participants in each age group of the trial — adults below and above age 55 — had received doses of the company’s candidate.
Earlier this month, Moderna had released early-stage data that showed the vaccine successfully produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers.
However, last week, a report highlighted the side effects of a volunteer taking part in a trial. A volunteer told STAT News that he started getting chills within hours of getting home from his second dose and had nausea and aching muscles.
Pfizer, a US pharmaceutical giant, has said a Covid-19 vaccine, which is being jointly developed with German firm Biotech, could be ready by the end of October 2020. The company is conducting clinical trials in the US and Europe for the BNT162 vaccine program. The program includes four vaccine candidates, each representing a different combination of mRNA format and target antigen.
“If things go well, and the stars are aligned, we will have enough evidence of safety and efficacy so that we can…have a vaccine around the end of October,” Albert Bourla, the CEO of the firm, said at an event. Bourla further said, “The short, less than four-month timeframe in which we’ve been able to move from pre-clinical studies to human testing is extraordinary”.
Russia, which has the world’s third-highest Covid-19 toll after the United States and Brazil, has said it planned to start clinical trials within two weeks on a vaccine. Besides, authorities also approved the country’s first anti-COVID-19 drug, a Reuters report said.
Kremlin officials said the nation’s researchers were working on almost 50 different vaccine projects. Health Minister Mikhail Murashko was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency that “The tests are underway and we plan to start clinical trials in the next two weeks”. He said volunteers had been selected to take part in the trials.
The state-run Vektor Institute in Siberia is also involved in developing one of the vaccines for coronavirus. The director-general of Vektor Institute, Rinat Maksyutov said he hoped to complete clinical trials in mid-September. He also said vaccine trials on animals had been successful.
In the meantime, the Russian Direct Investment Fund said the Health Ministry had approved Avifavir for the treatment of Covid-19. Avifavir drug was developed based on a generic drug known as favipiravir. The drug has proved highly effective in treating patients in the first phase of its clinical trials. The concluding stage of clinical trials is underway, with the participation of 330 patients.