University of Pittsburgh scientists believe they found potential coronavirus vaccine

Katie Ramirez
April 3, 2020

Tested on mice, the vaccine was able to produce antibodies that specifically fought the strain of coronavirus the globe's health systems are now buckling under. "We knew exactly where to fight this new virus", said study author Andrea Gambotto, MD, professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the press release.

They said they began working on it January 21 and found mice had developed antibodies against COVID-19 about two weeks after receiving the vaccine. It is shelf stable at room temperature, like a Band-Aid.

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.

Initial tests in mice showed the inoculation produces antibodies capable of fighting off the virus within two weeks of injection.

"We are not trying to be evasive in terms of giving you a specific timeline", Falo said in response to a question from The Post-Journal. "We hope that our results can contribute to the development of a novel drug treatment that can help patients with COVID-19".

The Oxford University vaccine, for example, is also being tested by another lab on a separate animal to comply with United States regulations. "That's why it's important to fund vaccine research". This provides important information on the development of the disease and the fact that severe cases of COVID-19 present with multi-organ failure and evidence of cardiovascular damage. hrsACE2 also reduced the SARS-CoV-2 infection in these engineered human tissues.

UPMC scientists have named the vaccine PittCoVacc, short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine.

Both SARS and MERS fall under the umbrella of coronaviruses and they were studied to develop the vaccine for the new virus: SARS-CoV-2. The UPMC researchers said their timetable will depend on approvals and feedback from the federal government, and they don't know how long it will take.

Funding couldn't be secured to continue prior research into the clinical trials phase.

These trials are among several being conducted around the world for COVID-19. "If the competition makes it quicker, competition is welcome", Gambotto said. "2014 was pretty much the same story".

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The trials are expected to take three months using vaccine candidates developed by the University of Oxford and Inovio Pharmaceuticals. With the MERS, we determined that the immunity we were getting from our vaccine did correlate with what one would expect what one would predict would be the response against SARS-coronavirus-2.

The team also used a new approach to deliver the drug, called a microneedle array, to increase potency.

Unlike many vaccines, the Pitt-developed version would be delivered by a fingertip-sized patch that scratches the surface of a recipient's skin.

The patch goes on like a plaster and then the needles - which are made entirely of sugar and the protein pieces - simply dissolve into the skin.

Researchers said they sided with using a patch, rather than a traditional needle, to deliver the spike protein to the skin, which elicits the strongest immune reaction.

When tested on mice, the Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine - PittCoVacc - generated "a surge of antibodies" within two weeks.

An global team led by University of British Columbia researcher Dr. Josef Penninger has found a trial drug that effectively blocks the cellular door SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect its hosts.

Thanks to an industrial-style production process, the Pittsburgh coronavirus vaccine - or PittCoVacc - is 'highly scalable, ' its developers say.

"It is very unlikely we will see type of systemic responses that have been seen in some patients in the flu vaccine", Falo said. CSIRO, taking an optimist's view, believe an early 2021 production of the vaccine is not completely out of the picture. Johnson & Johnson said this week it had identified what it called a promising candidate, and that it would begin human trials by September.

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