- The World Health Organization listed 70 vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus, a significant increase from the figure announced three weeks ago.
- The large number of candidates, as well as the various types of vaccines that researchers are proposing, increase the likelihood of success.
- Only 3 of the 70 candidates have reached clinical trials at this time — two in the US and one in China and Hong Kong.
There are more than 70 vaccines for COVID-19 currently in development, with three leading candidates, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), reports Lisa Du for Time.
All three – one from the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology with Hong Kong’s CanSino Bio and two from companies in the US – are currently undergoing human trials, a list published by WHO this weekend shows.
Another 67 vaccines, developed by scientists worldwide including teams from the UK, are also working towards trials in humans.
WHO’s list comes as the global death count from COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, has passed 100,000.
‘Under WHO’s coordination, a group of experts with diverse backgrounds is working towards the development of vaccines against COVID-19,’ WHO said in a statement. ‘The group makes a call to everyone to follow recommendations to prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus and protect the health of individuals.’
The list shows Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, working together with Hong Kong’s CanSino Bio, are leading the charge with their vaccine, called Ad5-nCoV.
In a listing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, CanSino Bio said it plans to move to phase II clinical trials with the genetic engineered vaccine candidate in China ‘soon‘.
Promising vaccine in eight months
Of the two US-based drugs companies, Massachusetts-based Moderna received regulatory approval to move to human trials last month, while Pennsylvania-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals began human trials last week.
The remaining 67 on WHO’s list are in preclinical evaluation at institutes including Osaka University in Japan, the University of Queensland, Australia, and the University of Oxford and Imperial College London.
The University of Oxford team has previously said that it could have a vaccine ready to go as soon as September. Researchers there are confident they can roll out a jab for the disease within the next eight months.
Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford said her team is ‘80 per cent’ confident that their vaccine will work based on previous work with similar vaccines.
‘The best-case scenario is that by the autumn of 2020 we have the results about the effectiveness of the vaccine from a phase III trial and the ability to manufacture large amounts of the vaccine,’ University of Oxford researchers told.
They admitted that this time frame was ‘highly ambitious‘ many things could get in the way of that target.
Vaccine delivery approach
Of the two US developers at the top of the WHO list, Inovio Pharmaceuticals has Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permission for a safety test of a vaccine against the new coronavirus in 40 healthy volunteers in Philadelphia and Missouri.
It gave its first dose of the experimental vaccine to participants on Monday, April 6. Inovio’s approach is what’s called a DNA vaccine, made using a section of the virus’s genetic code packaged inside a piece of synthetic DNA.
Forty-five participants in Seattle received the experimental jab in March to test its safety.
There is no chance participants could get infected from the shots, because they don’t contain the virus itself – rather the goal is to check the vaccines show no negative side effects, setting the stage for larger tests.
Dozens of research groups across the world, including Moderna, have taken a different route to traditional vaccine techniques.
Normally a weaker bug is planted in the body so a patient can adapt to fight off the infection – like the MMR vaccine. But Moderna’s sees messenger RNA stimulate the immune system to make similar proteins to the killer virus, which it can then combat.
Did you subscribe to our daily newsletter?
It’s Free! Click here to Subscribe!