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Cambridge University pushes off the vaccine ordeals to fight all coronaviruses

By Jahanbee Gupta



The University of Cambridge on Wednesday confirmed plans to begin ordeals of a feasible new vaccine not only against COVID-19 but all coronaviruses that may spill over from animals to humans in the future. The new vaccine candidate, DIOS-CoVax2, uses banks of genetic sequences of all known coronaviruses, including those from bats, believed to be the natural hosts of many relatives of human coronaviruses.


“The approach involves 3D computer modelling of the SARS-CoV-2 [Covid-19] virus' structure. It uses information on the virus itself also as its relatives, SARS, MERS and other coronaviruses carried by animals that threaten to 'spill-over' to humans again to cause future human epidemics, “said Jonathan Heeney, head of the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotic at the University of Cambridge, and founder of DIOSynVax - a Cambridge spin-out company.


They are looking for chinks in their armour crucial pieces of the virus that they can use to create the vaccine to direct the immune response in the right direction. Eventually, they aim to make a vaccine that will not only protect from SARS-CoV-2 but also other related coronaviruses that may spill over from animals to humans.

Prof. Heeney said his team’s strategy involves targeting those domains of the virus’ structure that is absolutely critical for docking with a cell while avoiding the parts that could make things worse. His team has developed libraries of computer-generated antigen structures encoded by synthetic genes that can train the human immune system to target key regions of the virus and to produce beneficial anti-viral responses. His team has developed libraries of computer-generated antigen structures encoded by synthetic genes that can train the human immune system to target key regions of the virus and to produce beneficial anti-viral responses.


Their approach is the use of synthetic DNA to deliver custom-designed, immune selected vaccine antigens' which is revolutionary and is ideal for complex viruses such as coronavirus. If successful, it'll end in a vaccine that ought to be safe for widespread use which is often manufactured and distributed at low cost.


DIOS-CoVax2, which hopes to go into human trials by later this year is the latest vaccine candidate to be backed by the UK government with 1.9 million pounds in funding as part of a collaboration between DIOSynVax, which is contributing an additional 400,000 pounds to the trial, the University of Cambridge, and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. The team said that their proposed new vaccine can be freeze-dried as a powder and is, therefore, heat-stable, meaning that it does not need to be cold-stored. This makes transport and storage much more straightforward, particularly important in low and middle-income countries, and it can be delivered through PharmaJet Tropis intradermal Needle-free Injection System, which delivers the vaccine in less than a 1/10th of second jet injection.


The news comes as the University of Oxford revealed that its trials of a potential vaccine against COVID-19 being developed with AstraZeneca could be put before regulators this year if scientists are able to gather enough data. The Oxford vaccine, as it is commonly known, showed early promise in the first human trial when it produced an immune response, underlining its position as one of the leading candidates in the race to help vaccinate humans against the deadly novel coronavirus.


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