A new needle-free COVID-19 vaccine that could protect against new COVID variants and the new technology used for this drug could also help predict how the virus could evolve in the future.
In instead of a needle, the new technique uses a jet of air to push through the skin. It was created by the University of Southampton.
Whereas most existing Covid vaccinations use RNA from first virus samples sequenced at the start of the pandemic in January last year, the DIOSvax technology used for the new vaccine attempts to forecast how the virus will develop in the future.
This would enable it to target new types as they emerge.
“This isn’t simply ‘yet another’ coronavirus vaccine, as it has both Covid-19 variants and future coronaviruses in its sights,” said Saul Faust, clinical chief investigator and head of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility.
“This technology could give wide-ranging protection to huge numbers of people worldwide.”
Messenger RNA vaccines, such as the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, employ laboratory-created mRNA to train cells how to synthesize a protein that mimics the protein coronavirus causes cells to produce when infected.
This activates the body’s immune system, which develops antibodies to guard against the coronavirus that the vaccine imitates.
If a vaccinated person becomes sick with the coronavirus, the antibodies meant to combat it are already present.
Emerging strains, like the Omicron type, have changes in the spike protein, which it uses to latch onto cells.
This implies that when the virus takes over a cell and utilizes it to start creating new viral particles, including spike proteins, those proteins aren’t the same as the ones the body’s immune system has seen before.
The vaccine developer intends to mix epitopes from multiple “synthetic, novel antigens” into a single shot. Epitopes are the parts of a foreign body that elicit an immune response.
This attempts to protect against new or likely to occur alterations in the virus’s natural evolution, and to “usher in a new era of proactive, pandemic readiness.”
Professor Jonathan Heeney, CEO of DIOSvax and the vaccine’s creator at Cambridge University, added:
“As new variants emerge and immunity begins to wane we need newer technologies.
“It’s vital that we continue to develop new generation vaccine candidates ready to help keep us safe from the next virus threats.
“Our vaccine is innovative, both in terms of the way it primes the immune system to respond with a broader protective response to coronaviruses, and how it is delivered.
“Crucially, it is the first step towards a universal coronavirus vaccine we are developing, protecting us not just from COVID-19 variants but from future coronaviruses.”
Despite the changes revealed in the Omicron variant, the government believes that the third round of current vaccines will provide enough protection to prevent serious illness.
Early laboratory experiments revealed that being double or triple jabbed was effective against the Omicron strain, according to Pfizer.
This was due to the fact that the mutations had no effect on 80% of the epitopes in the spike protein.
The trial is presently looking for volunteers in the Southampton area who have received two doses of an existing vaccine but have not received a booster.
According to a recent listing, the biotech start-up has also developed Ebola and other fatal haemorrhagic fever vaccines that are currently being tested in clinical trials.
It’s also working on a universal influenza vaccine.
Image Credit: Getty
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