Scientists are making efforts to produce a new low-cost covid-19 vaccine, which is already undergoing testing in Brazil, Mexico and Vietnam. Designated as NDV-HXP-S, the new vaccine is easy to produce and promises to change the way the world is fighting the pandemic, according to the newspaper “The New York Times”.
This new vaccine is the first to enter clinical trials using a new molecular design that is expected to create more potent antibodies in the body than the current generation of immunizers.
Unlike existing vaccines against the new coronavirus, which have to be produced in specialized factories and whose raw material is difficult to acquire, which has led to delays in delivery, NDV-HXP-S it can be mass-produced in chicken eggs – a method that, in fact, has been used for years worldwide to produce flu vaccines.
The current priority for scientists is to prove that the vaccine NDV-HXP-S is safe and effective – and if tests prove it, it could be produced by influenza vaccine manufacturers on a scale of more than a billion doses a year.
At the moment, the focus of clinical trials is to ascertain whether the vaccine is effective in humans, and animal tests have shown promise. The first phase of clinical trials will be completed as early as next July, although the final tests will take a few more months.
Vaccine accessible to poorer countries, dispensing royalties
The new vaccine against covid also represents a giant step towards the poorest countries having access to the immunizer, since the richest will be able to have enough doses for their population and to acquire them at low cost for more needy nations. “This is impressive and represents a game changer “, stresses Andrea Taylor, assistant director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, cited by the” New York Times “.
Getting a vaccine against covid that reaches the whole world, namely the poorest countries that in this first wave were left out of the distribution of immunizing agents, is a primary objective of the scientist Jason McLellan, a biologist at the Geisel School of Medicine in Dartmouth, whose team came up with a protein combination for this type of vaccine, HexaPro. “The share of vaccines that these countries have received so far is terrible, “said McLellan.
The current delay in vaccines is also due to the fact that patents are in the hands of the laboratories that developed them, and according to experts, the process could be accelerated if production was done in partnership with other companies in the industry taking advantage of the availability of their factories.
In this regard, the University of Texas has already established a licensing agreement for HexaPro, which allows laboratories in 80 low- and middle-income countries to use the protein in vaccines without paying royalties. Efforts are also underway to enable the poorest countries to produce vaccines against covid-19 on its own.
Factories that produce flu vaccines will also be able to do them against covid
The first wave of approved vaccines against covid-19 is based on expensive raw material and requires factories with specialized procedures to be able to process them.
In contrast, flu vaccines are currently made cheaply, with huge factories in several countries to produce them. And they use the method of injecting the influenza virus in chicken eggs, which produce new copies of the virus in abundance, which are then extracted for vaccines, according to the New York Times.
What the scientists investigated was whether it was also possible make a vaccine for the new coronavirus that could be ‘incubated’ at low cost on chicken eggs – and so the same factories that make flu vaccines could also do them against covid-19.
Experimentally, thousands of doses of the new NDV-HXP-S vaccine are already being produced in a factory in Vietnam, which normally makes flu vaccines using chicken eggs. Tests found that the NDV-HXP-S vaccine provides powerful protection in hamsters.
“Honestly, I can say that it is possible to protect all hamsters and rats in the world against SARS-CoV-2,” said Peter Palese, who is leading these trials, stressing that “what he does in humans has not been ascertained”.
The vaccine also showed the extra benefit of showing a higher profitability of eggs used as raw material: uA single egg can yield five to ten doses of NDV-HXP-S against covid, when it yields one or two doses in flu vaccines. “We are very excited about this, we believe it is a way to make a cheap vaccine “, stressed Peter Palese.
The new vaccine does not solve the problem immediately, the tests will still last for months
On March 15, Vietnam announced the start of a clinical trial of NDV-HXP-S through its Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals. A week later, the Pharmaceutical Organization of the Government of Thailand made an identical announcement.
On March 26, Instituto Butantan do Brasil advanced that it was going to ask for authorization to start its own clinical trials with the NDV-HXP-S vaccine. But as the New York Times notes, in Brazil the Butantan Institute announced the NDV-HXP-S as “the Brazilian vaccine”, which would be “produced entirely in Brazil, without depending on imports”.
As it still requires months of testing, scientists say that the new vaccine does not propose to solve the immediate problem of countries that are struggling with a lack of immunization and want to urgently resolve the pandemic situation. But they stress that it promises to bring a disruptive strategy to the production of long-term vaccines, not only for covid-19 but for other pandemics that may occur in the future.