A vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is in development and scheduled to commence human trials in April in the USA, and shortly thereafter in South Korea and China. If successful, the vaccine could immunise patients not previously exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
The INO-4800 vaccine is being developed and tested by Pennsylvania, USA-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals under a $9 million grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a consortium of government, business and philanthropic organisations. Inovio pledges to produce one million doses by year’s end.
A biopharmaceutical company focusing on medicines targeting HPV, cancer and infectious diseases, Inovio is a leader in developing coronavirus vaccines. In addition to INO-4800, the firm has a vaccine for the coronavirus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in Phase 2 clinical trials, which is currently furthest along in development of any type of coronavirus vaccine.
Both the MERS and COVID-19 vaccines were developed using an engineered vaccine platform that synthesises replicas of genetic sequences called plasmids from target pathogens. When delivered into host cells, these plasmids are intended to stimulate the host immune system to create antibodies that will attack the target virus should it present, disabling the virus before it can cause disease. The vaccines are delivered using Inovio’s proprietary, CE-marked, intradermal delivery system, which uses an electrical pulse to open reversible pores in cells allowing the plasmids to directly enter and replicate to increase immune response.
Inovio’s DNA vaccine platform enables extremely rapid development, said J Joseph Kim PhD, the firm’s president and CEO. “We designed our DNA vaccine INO-4800 in three hours after the publication of the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” he said in a statement. Preclinical studies and manufacture of 3,000 human trial are taking place this month. Trials in 30 healthy volunteers will begin next month in the USA.
If successful, the one million doses Inovio plans to produce with existing resources will be used for further trials and/or emergency use, Dr Kim said. If approved, additional resources will be needed to produce vaccine for distribution and clinical use, which could take 12-to-18 months.
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