Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the school’s medical center UPMC are working on a possible vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists on Thursday announced the news of the potential vaccine, which has now been successfully tested in mice.
Several research groups around the world are rushing to create a vaccine, including a temporary vaccine, which could protect people for a month or two while more sustainable measures are developed. Scientists are working at extraordinary speed. Scientists said the speed and level of global cooperation that led to this milestone was unprecedented.
According to a press release from the UPMC and the university, “When tested in mice, the vaccine, administered by a patch the size of a finger, produces antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 in quantities deemed sufficient to neutralize the virus. “
The vaccine has been dubbed “PittCoVacc” – short for Pittsburgh coronavirus vaccine – and would be administered via a “micro-needle network” in which a small patch containing 400 tiny needles “delivers the pieces of advanced protein into the skin , where the immune response is strongest. The patch would adhere to the skin – just like a bandage – and the micro needles, made up “entirely of sugar and pieces of protein” would dissolve and be absorbed by the skin.
The vaccine must be approved by the US FDA before the team can begin clinical trials on humans. The team hopes that the application and approval processes can be expedited so that a tested vaccine can be produced as quickly and responsibly as possible.
In an article announcing the vaccine in the journal EBioMedicine, co-author Andrea Gambotto, an associate professor of surgery at the university, said the researchers hoped to “put it in patients as soon as possible”.
Thanks to their previous work on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014, researchers and scientists in this laboratory have learned that a cutting-edge protein is particularly important for boosting immunity against the virus. Thanks to this research, Gambotto said, “We knew exactly where to fight this new virus.”
There are currently at least 35 companies and academic institutions working in this direction, four of which have developed vaccines that are in the animal testing stage, The Guardian reported.
Last month, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh estimated that it could take at least a year to 18 months to develop a vaccine and get through the trial period.
According to Louis Falo, professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh who co-authored the document in EBioMedicine, they would like to start clinical trials in about a month, “give or take.” Maybe two months. We have just started the process. “
Report – “UPMC announces potential COVID-19 vaccine” – in Pittsburgh Action News April 3, 2020 (https://www.wtae.com/article/upmc-to-discuss-potential-covid-19- vaccine-on Thursday / 32014437 #) by Nick Matoney said:
The UPMC and scientists from Pitt Health Sciences have announced a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers said they had previous experience with two viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2.
“We had previous experience with SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014. These two viruses, which are closely linked to SARS-CoV-2, tell us that a particular protein, called peak protein, is important to induce immunity. against the virus. We knew exactly where to fight this new virus, ”said lead co-author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine. “This is why it is important to fund research on vaccines. You never know where the next pandemic will come from. “
Compared to the experimental vaccine candidate for mRNA which has just entered clinical trials, the vaccine developed at Pitt “follows a more established approach, using pieces of viral proteins produced in the laboratory to strengthen immunity”, from the same way the flu vaccine works.
Last month, researchers estimated at least a year to 18 months to develop the vaccine and go through the trials to make sure it was safe.
Producing a potential vaccine would also take time.
On April 2, 2020, the UPMC declared (https://inside.upmc.com/covid-19-vaccine-candidate/):
Scientists from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have announced a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
The article appeared in EBioMedicine, which is published by The Lancet, and is the first study to be published after criticism from scientific colleagues at outside institutions that describes a candidate vaccine for COVID-19. The researchers were able to act quickly because they had already laid the groundwork in previous coronavirus epidemics.
Scientists in Australia start testing potential vaccines
Australian scientists announced Thursday that they have started testing another potential Covid-19 vaccine on ferrets, with a team from Oxford University expected to test the same drug on humans in the coming weeks.
The vaccines, manufactured by the University of Oxford and the American company Inovio Pharmaceutical, have been approved for animal testing by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Australian national science agency will assess whether the vaccines work and whether they are safe for humans.
Australian researchers said they had mapped the immune responses of one of the country’s first Covid-19 patients, which the Minister of Health said was an important step in developing a vaccine and of a treatment.
Researchers at the Australian Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said they had taken an important step in understanding the virus.
By examining the blood results of an unidentified woman in her forties, they discovered that people’s immune systems respond to the coronavirus in the same way that they usually fight the flu.
The results would help scientists understand why some patients recover while others develop more serious breathing problems, the researchers said.
The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) says its tests will be the first comprehensive pre-clinical trials of vaccines to use an animal model.
“Normally it takes about one to two years to get to this point and we have actually shortened it to a period of a few months,” Dr. Rob Grenfell of CSIRO told reporters on Thursday.
Over the past few days, the CSIRO team has inserted vaccine samples into ferrets – small furry mammals that have been shown to contract coronavirus in the same way as humans.
The first human trial of a vaccine began in a laboratory in Seattle last month after a team of American researchers ignored animal tests, which are used to establish efficacy and safety.
Even if the initial safety tests go well, “you are talking about a year to a year and a half” before a vaccine is ready to be used on a large scale, said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute NIH allergies and infectious diseases. Associated press.
It would still be a record pace, but manufacturers know that the wait – necessary because it takes additional studies on thousands of people to find out if a vaccine really protects and does no harm – is difficult for a frightened public.
WHO launches global clinical trials
On March 20, WHO announced the launch of a multi-country clinical study called “Solidarity”. This trial will test the effectiveness of four different drugs – remdesivir, chloroquine, a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, and this combination of lopinavir and ritonavir in conjunction with interferon beta (which helps reduce inflammation) – against COVID-19. According to the announcement, WHO “will compare [drug] efficiency at what is called the standard of care – regular support hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients are now using it. “
So far, several countries – Thailand, Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland – are participating in the Solidarity trial. The United States is absent from this list.
Five-minute ready-to-use test
The fastest available COVID-19 diagnostic test, which can produce results in five minutes, has been dubbed ID NOW and was developed by Abbott, a medical device company.
ID NOW is said to be ready for use in hospitals and medical offices as of the second week of April 2020.
Abbott plans to start providing “50,000 tests a day” for rapid diagnostic uses. The ID NOW machine is similar in size to a toaster, weighs 6.6 pounds and uses molecular technology to deliver results.
Scientists pool data
Wired reports that staff from Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York have teamed up to consolidate data on patients with chronic diseases – putting focus on people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and have contracted COVID-19. These records include the medications each person takes for their chronic illness. and what they were prescribed for COVID-19 in addition to the patient’s response to treatment.
The registry was named Secure-IBD (Surveillance Epidemiology of Coronavirus Under Research Exclusion) and went from an idea to be launched in a week by Michael Kappelman, pediatric gastroenterologist at UNC and one of the founders of the registry.
This effort was a call to action for physicians from other disciplines who have started working on the creation of their own international registries, including the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance. This research may help physicians better understand COVID-19, its interactions in different populations with pre-existing conditions, and its interactions with prescription drugs.
AI takes a crack at COVID-19
Two of the biggest threats posed by COVID-19 include the speed and ease of transmission of the virus. So far, mitigation efforts have included social distancing and self-quarantine, but AI has also shown that it can play a role in virus mitigation and the creation of treatments.
Summit, the world’s fastest supercomputer, used AI to find out what drugs could be preventing COVID-19 from spreading to new hosts. The summit discovered that 77 compounds – out of 8,000 on which it performed simulations – could “limit the viral recognition of host cells and / or disrupt host-virus interactions”, according to an article published in ChemRxiv. While this new information is useful, it does not mean that effective treatment with COVID-19 is near.
“Our results don’t mean we found a cure or a cure for the coronavirus,” said Jeremy Smith, one of the article authors and director of the University of Oak Oak National Laboratory Center for Molecular Biophysics Tennessee.
“We very much hope that our computational results will both inform future studies and provide a framework that experimenters will use to deepen these compounds. Only then will we know if any of them have the characteristics necessary to mitigate this virus, “adds Smith.
Proteins can “distract” the virus
Scientists from the Swedish Karolinska Institute and the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada have teamed up to study how a protein was used to treat patients with lung disease using a genetically modified version of angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The modified protein – the human recombinant soluble angiotensin 2 converting enzyme (hrsACE2) – appears to decrease the growth and effectiveness of COVID-19 to bind to our cells with results dependent on the dose administered and the “Total amount of virus” present. However, the results are inconclusive – research and testing have only been done on cell cultures and modified organic tissue; it remains to be seen whether this treatment will be effective in protecting humans from the virus. The study and the results were published in Cell.
Peptide may be able to block COVID-19
A peptide developed by chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States may have the ability to disengage and prevent COVID-19 from entering our cells.
Scientists have synthesized an amino acid peptide fragment that blocks “the interaction of the advanced protein SARS-CoV-2 … preventing the virus from entering human cells.” The result was published in bioRxiv but has not yet been peer reviewed.
Antibodies hidden in the plasma
Those who have been infected and fully recovered from COVID-19 may have antibodies in their plasma that can help patients in critical condition of the virus.
Atlantic called “Hail Mary”, but it appears to be promising to use convalescent plasma therapy from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat those with severe symptoms.
Gary Kobinger, virologist and director of the Center for Research on Infectious Diseases at Laval University in Quebec, said Wired that plasma transfer can be an effective therapy based on the results of a small sample of five patients in China who were treated with plasma filled with antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients. However, we should not count plasma therapy as a remedy at all.
“If I had to put money on something that would help the most, that would be it. This is not to say that the other drugs we are trying will not work. But I wouldn’t expect miracles, because we would already know if they worked really well, “said Kobinger.
One of the challenges that comes to mind includes obtaining plasma from people who have already recovered from COVID-19.
UNMC tackles diagnosis and tests of COVID-19
Among the dozens of healthcare professionals working hard to save patients infected with COVID-19 is Jana Broadhurst, director of the clinical laboratory of the Nebraska Biological Containment Unit. Broadhurst said Squire that his laboratory is “the beating heart of a new response to infectious diseases”. The United States has only one federal quarantine center and it is located on the campus of the Medical Center (UNMC) at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. Here, Broadhurst, with the support of his laboratory team, spent 20 hours a day working on a diagnostic kit faster than the test procedures put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The grueling effort works. Broadhurst and his team were among the first clinicians in the state to create their own effective diagnostic test. Although this UNMC test is not as rapid as that of Cepheid, results on the same day (Broadhurst says it takes four to six hours) are still possible.
Flu medicine can treat COVID-19
Favipiravir, an antiviral medication commonly used to treat flu patients, may also be effective in treating those who have contracted COVID-19. A member of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology said the drug was used to treat patients in clinical trials in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, and in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.
Patients in Shenzhen who tested positive for COVID-19 were retested – on average within four days – after receiving favipiravir. The results came back negative. The Guardian reports that x-rays showed improvement in lung conditions in 91% of people who received doses of favipiravir, compared to 62% who did not receive the drug. Japanese doctors are also using favipiravir in patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and who have “mild to moderate symptoms”.
However, it appears that favipiravir – also known as Avigan – is less effective in patients with “more severe symptoms,” according to a source with the Japanese Ministry of Health.
Additional treatments in progress
Stat news reports that several pharmaceutical companies are working on the creation of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. They note that Gilead Sciences, Ascletis Pharma, Moderna Therapeutics and CanSino Biologics are among the groups working on new drugs to fight COVID-19.
Some of these companies are trying to develop vaccines while others focus on viral treatments. So far, no vaccine exists for COVID-19 – for two reasons, the main one being that the development of a vaccine can take years. Generally, the introduction of a vaccine to the public involves three long approval processes: approval, recommendations and requirements. The license is where the FDA must approve a new vaccine for use. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) says the license can decades and notes that the chickenpox vaccine has taken 11 years to obtain FDA clearance.
The referral is where health care providers “seek recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which advises the CDC, the Infectious Diseases Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) “, According to CHOP. This is where the FDA compares the risks against the benefits of the vaccine. Finally, a vaccine reaches the requirements stage. This is where it is determined whether or not a vaccine is required by state legislatures, health services and local governments.
In addition, vaccines must undergo testing phases in which humans and animals are used to test the efficacy and effects of the new vaccine. According to CHOP, Phase III is the “last step in development before a company applies for a market license, and it takes three to four years.” So even with accelerated trials and phases and approval processes, a COVID-19 vaccine will still take time.
FDA Accelerated Diagnostic Test
The FDA has approved a COVID-19 test that provides diagnostic results in 45 minutes.
Scientific alert reports that the designation “emergency clearance” occurred to “make up for lost time” in reference to the glacial rate to which the United States responded and attempted to mitigate the COVID-19 epidemic.
The tests are produced by Cepheid, a California-based biotechnology company, and will not need to go through a laboratory for processing, but their use will be limited. According to Cepheid’s chief medical officer David Persing, “the test should be used primarily in emergency rooms and hospitals, not in doctors’ offices.”