Canadians could participate in clinical trials of new COVID-19 vaccine, researcher says

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A Hamilton infectious disease doctor says Canadians could soon participate in a clinical trial for a new coronavirus vaccine in development overseas.McMaster University professor Dr. Mark Loeb says the new DNA-based vaccine could be part of Phase 2 testing in Canada in late fall or early 2021.

“It’s a DNA vaccine that was produced using computer modeling and artificial intelligence,” Loeb said. “We think it would be an effective vaccine to protect people from COVID-19.”

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Loeb says the vaccine was developed by a team from a UK company called DIOSynVax founded by Canadian professor Jonathan Heeney, who studied at the University of Guelph.

The new vaccine candidate – DIOS-CoVax2 – was developed using genetic sequences from all known coronaviruses, including those from bats that harbor numerous human coronavirus relatives.

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A statement from the University of Cambridge says the components of the vaccine come from synthetic, computer-generated antigens that can train the human immune system to target key regions of the virus and produce beneficial antiviral responses.

Immune responses could then block infection with the virus and eliminate cells infected with the virus from the human body.

Dr Jonathan Heeney, Professor of Comparative Pathology at the University of Cambridge, and Dr Mark Loeb, Professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine / Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University.


Facebook / McMaster University


Heeney says the key is 3D computer modeling of the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is built using information about the virus itself as well as its parents – SARS, MERS and other coronaviruses.

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“We’re looking for cracks in its armor, crucial pieces of the virus that we can use to build the vaccine to point the immune response in the right direction,” Heeney said in the statement. “Ultimately, we aim to make a vaccine that will protect not only against SARS-CoV-2, but also other related coronaviruses that could spread from animals to humans.”

Heeney goes on to say that the difference in their model, compared to some other current vaccine candidates, is a strategy that targets the virus’s “anchor” structures that connect the coronavirus to a cell.

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“It’s a vaccine that targets a certain part of the virus which we believe will lead to a longer duration of immunity which will be safer,” Loeb said.

Another key element of the project is the structure of the proposed vaccine, which allows it to be freeze-dried in powder form and does not require cold storage, making transport and storage much simpler.

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Loeb connected with Heeney on the project through another scientist and says he had many “back and forth” conversations about a protocol to complete phase 2 and begin a phase study. 3.

Professor McMaster says taking clinical trials for DIOS-CoVax2 is not a difficult exercise for his team, which has been doing large clinical trials on a flu vaccine for 15 years.

“This has been done in over 30 centers in 12 countries,” Loeb said. “So for us, it’s not that hard to go from that to a COVID clinical trial.

Phase 1 of the trials is currently underway in the UK, which Loeb says involves around 100 people in a safety trial to look at “bad signals” or patient reactions.

Phase 2, which could involve applicants from Canada, would move between 500 and 600 people and study immune responses to the vaccine.

“You look at how the vaccine affects different aspects of the immune response, the antibody response and the T cell response,” says Loeb.

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Hamilton and a number of other Canadian cities could be affected with testing for the vaccine due to the relatively low number of COVID-19 infections in the country, which Loeb says is critical in a Phase 2 trial.

“When you look at the immune response, you better not do it when there is a lot of COVID virus circulating because you want to know what the impact of the vaccine is rather than having a natural infection that interferes with them. results. Loeb said.

Phase 3 is expected to involve thousands of candidates in viral hotspots and determine whether a subject can actually fight infection with the virus, according to Loeb.

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