Army’s own vaccine that could fight COVID variants begins clinical trials

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A unique vaccine produced by the Walter Reed Army Research Institute began clinical trials on Tuesday, and military researchers hope it will fight variants of SARS-COV-2, the novel coronavirus responsible for COVID- 19.

The vaccine, called a ferritin-tipped nanoparticle, or SpFN, may also help fight other coronaviruses, a group of related RNA viruses that often cause respiratory disease in mammals.

Army researchers have been tracking the threat posed by the novel coronaviruses even before the pandemic, according to Kayvon Modjarrad, director of emerging infectious diseases at Walter Reed. This threat has accelerated in recent years.

“That’s why we need a vaccine like this: a vaccine that has the potential to broadly and proactively protect against multiple species and strains of coronavirus,” Modjarrad said in a statement announcing the SpFN testing.

The Department of Defense has had a combined total of more than 271,000 cases of COVID-19. Of this number, 3,814 people were hospitalized and 332 people died. Twenty-four of the dead were military personnel and 11 were dependents.

The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna have been approved under emergency use authorization by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are available to the troops.

The Pentagon has made force vaccination a readiness issue so that military operations can return to pre-pandemic standards. Although there have been difficulties pressuring troops to take the voluntary vaccine early on, vaccination rates appear to be increasing in recent weeks.

“The more people who get vaccinated as quickly as possible, the lower the level of transmission of the virus, which makes it less likely to continue mutating,” said Dr Steven Cersovsky, deputy director of the center. army public health, end of February.

New variants of COVID-19 have emerged in South Africa and the UK. But military medics are hopeful that current vaccines can combat these new strains. But if there are any problems, Walter Reed’s vaccine may be appropriate.

Command Sgt.  Major Alex Kupratty of the 4th Infantry Brigade, 25th Infantry Division receives his initial dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Jan.6 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.  (Major Jason Welch / Army)Command Sgt.  Major Alex Kupratty of the 4th Infantry Brigade, 25th Infantry Division receives his initial dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Jan.6 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.  (Major Jason Welch / Army)

“We designed and positioned this platform as a next-generation vaccine, which paves the way for a universal vaccine to protect not only against the current virus, but also against future variants, stopping them in their tracks before they can. they cannot cause another pandemic, ”Modjarrad said.

Preclinical studies have indicated that SpFN induces very strong antibody responses in patients, slowing down the virus responsible for COVID-19 infection, as well as three major variants of SARS-CoV-2 and the SARS-CoV-1 virus.

The Phase 1 study is being conducted at the Walter Reed Clinical Trials Center and will recruit 72 healthy adult volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55. Participants will be randomly placed into placebo or experimental groups.

The SpFN clinical trial is sponsored by the US Army Medical Research and Development Command.

The vaccine was developed by the Walter Reed Army Research Institute with support from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc.

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