Israeli scientists are on the verge of bringing the first vaccine against the new coronavirus to the market, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis has announced. If all goes according to plan, the vaccine could be ready in a few weeks and available in 90 days, according to a press release.
“Congratulations to The Galilee Research Institute (MIGAL) for this exciting advance , “ said Akunis. “I am confident that further rapid progress will be made, enabling us to provide a necessary response to the serious global threat of COVID-19,” he added.
Scientists sequenced Covid-19 DNA before examining it and finding that poultry coronavirus has a strong genetic similarity to human coronavirus and that it uses the same mechanism of infection. This kinship increases the likelihood of achieving an effective vaccine in a very short time. “All we have to do is adjust the system to the new sequence,” said Chen Katz. “We are in the middle of this process and we hope that within a few weeks we will have the vaccine in our hands,” he added.
Over the past four years, a team of MIGAL scientists has developed a vaccine against the infectious bronchitis virus (VBI), which causes bronchial disease in poultry. The effectiveness of the vaccine has been proven in preclinical trials at the Veterinary Institute.
“Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this type of virus,” said Dr. Chen Katz, head of the biotechnology group at MIGAL. “The scientific framework of the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein which delivers the viral antigen in the mucous tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the formation of antibodies against the virus. by the body. “
Endocytosis is a cellular process in which substances are introduced into a cell by surrounding the material with a cell membrane, thus forming a vesicle containing the ingested material.
In preclinical trials, the team demonstrated that oral vaccination induces high levels of specific antibodies against VIB, said Katz.
“Let’s call it pure luck,” he said. “We decided to choose the coronavirus as a model for our system, just as a proof of concept for our technology. “
But after scientists sequenced the DNA of the new coronavirus behind the current global epidemic, MIGAL researchers examined it and found that poultry coronavirus has great genetic similarity to human coronavirus. and that it uses the same infection mechanism, which increases the likelihood of getting an effective human vaccine in a very short time, says Katz.
“All we have to do is adjust the system to the new sequence. We are in the middle of this process, and we hope that in a few weeks we will have the vaccine in our hands. Yes, in a few weeks, if everything works, we will have a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus. “
MIGAL would be responsible for developing the new vaccine, but it would then go through a regulatory process, including clinical trials and large-scale production, said Katz.
Akunis said he has instructed the director general of his department to speed up all approval processes in order to get the human vaccine to market as quickly as possible.
“Given the urgency of a human coronavirus vaccine, we are doing everything in our power to accelerate development,” said MIGAL director general David Zigdon. The vaccine could “get safety approval in 90 days,” he added.
It will be an oral vaccine, which will make it particularly accessible to the general public, said Zigdon.
“We are currently in intensive discussions with potential partners who can help speed up the human testing phase and accelerate the completion of final product development and regulatory activities ,” he added.