Report: Pennsylvania scientists may have developed coronavirus vaccine

Scientists in Pennsylvania may have found a promising vaccine for the novel coronavirus. 

The University of Pittsburgh researchers say that the vaccine could be rolled out in time to “significantly” put a dent in the current pandemic, the New York Post reported Thursday. The findings were outlined Thursday in eBioMedicine, which is published by The Lancet.

“These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus,” a statement from the study’s co-senior author, Andrea Gambotto, M.D., read, according to the Post. SARS-CoV-2 is the official name of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers herald new vaccine

Significantly, the new vaccine is the “first to be published after critique from fellow scientists at outside institutions that describes a candidate vaccine for COVID-19,” according to a Pittwire news release. The vaccine consists of a fingertip-sized patch that pumps antibodies that target the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the researchers said. The researchers had previously studied other coronaviruses like MERS, which they said enabled them to develop the new vaccine more rapidly.

“Building on our ongoing efforts to develop MERS-CoV vaccines, promising immunogenicity of MNA-delivered MERS-CoV vaccines, and our experience with MNA fabrication and delivery, including clinical trials, we rapidly designed and produced clinically-translatable MNA SARS-CoV-2 subunit vaccines within 4 weeks of the identification of the SARS-CoV-2 S1 sequence,” the researchers wrote Thursday in eBioMedicine. “Most importantly, these MNA delivered SARS-CoV-2 S1 subunit vaccines elicited potent antigen-specific antibody responses that were evident beginning 2 weeks after immunization.”

Importantly, the research, which used mice, is obviously new and will require more time to fully establish the vaccine’s effectiveness. But after two weeks of receiving the vaccine, the mice were, they believe, producing enough antibodies to kill off the coronavirus, the researchers said, according to Fox News.

The vaccine works like a Band-Aid, except it has 400 microneedles made out of sugar and proteins that dissolve into the skin, the Pittwire release notes. The scientists used that method because direct contact with the skin builds stronger immunity, they said. They also heralded its “scalability,” an important factor as the world battles a pandemic.

World hopes for a cure

Of course, the effectiveness of the vaccine needs to be studied in humans still. But the scientists hope to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pronto and begin clinical trials within a few months. They believe that this vaccine will work because MERS vaccines given to mice have been effective, and the coronavirus vaccine is following a similar pattern so far.

“We knew exactly where to fight this new virus,” Gambotto said, according to the New York Post.

Health officials have consistently said that any vaccine to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic may take up to 18 months to develop. But these scientists believe that this vaccine may be ready in time to make a difference in this pandemic.

“Thus far, our studies suggest that it may now be possible to produce clinical-grade vaccines against novel pathogens for human testing and subsequent global distribution in time to significantly impact the spread of disease,” the researchers wrote Thursday.

With so many vaccines in development, could this finally be the real deal?

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