COVID-19 Vaccine Protects Monkeys from New coronavirus- Biotech Report
For the first time, one of the many COVID-19 vaccines in development has protected an animal from infection by the new coronavirus, scientists report.
In a report by ScienceMagazine, the vaccine, an old-fashioned formulation consisting of a chemically inactivated version of the virus, produced no obvious side effects in the monkeys, and human trials began on 16 April.
Researchers from Sinovac Biotech, a privately held Beijing-based company, gave two different doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to a total of eight rhesus macaque monkeys. Three weeks later, the group introduced SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, into the monkeys’ lungs through tubes down their tracheas, and none developed a full-blown infection.
The monkeys given the highest dose of vaccine had the best response: Seven days after the animals received the virus, researchers could not detect it in the pharynx or lungs of any of them. Some of the lower dosed animals had a “viral blip” but also appeared to have controlled the infection, the Sinovac team reports in a paper published on 19 April on the preprint server bioRxiv. In contrast, four control animals developed high levels of viral RNA in several body parts and severe pneumonia. The results “give us a lot of confidence” that the vaccine will work in humans, says Meng Weining, Sinovac’s senior director for overseas regulatory affairs.
“I like it,” says Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who has co-authored a status report about the many different COVID-19 vaccines in development. “This is old school but it might work. What I like most is that many vaccine producers, also in lower–middle-income countries, could make such a vaccine.”
But Douglas Reed of the University of Pittsburgh, who is developing and testing COVID-19 vaccines in monkey studies, says the number of animals was too small to yield statistically significant results. His team also has a manuscript in preparation that raises concerns about the way the Sinovac team grew the stock of novel coronavirus used to challenge the animals: It may have caused changes that make it less reflective of the ones that infect humans.
“We are not comparing ourselves to anyone,” Meng says. “In this pandemic situation, the most important thing is to make a vaccine, no matter what kind of vaccine it is, that’s safe and effective as soon as possible.”
Even though the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that no pharmaceutical products have yet been shown to be safe and effective for the treatment of COVID-19, a number of medicines have been suggested as potential investigational therapies, many of which are now being or will soon be studied in clinical trials, including the SOLIDARITY trial co-sponsored by WHO and participating countries.
In many countries, doctors are giving COVID-19 patients medicines that have not been approved for this disease. The use of licensed medicines for indications that have not been approved by a national medicines regulatory authority is considered “off-label” use.
The prescription of medicines for off-label use by doctors may be subject to