Wednesday 15 July 2020
Could Inovio be the one to come up with the cure for the coronavirus? Photo: AFP

A coronavirus vaccine may soon be available, as United States biotech firm Inovio has reported preliminary but encouraging test results. Administered to 40 volunteers, the vaccine triggered an immune system response in 94% of those who completed the so-called phase one clinical trial, meaning they received two injections, four weeks apart.

Called INO-4800, the vaccine is injected under the skin with a needle, then activated with a device that resembles a toothbrush, which delivers an electrical impulse for a fraction of a second, allowing the DNA to penetrate the body’s cells and carry out its mission. Financed by the US Defence Department and civil society group CEPI, Inovio also said it has been included in President Donald Trump’s plan to produce hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine by January as part of Operation Warp Speed.

 

Operation Warp Speed is a public–private partnership and interagency programme by the United States government to facilitate and accelerate the development of coronavirus vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

Eight companies have been chosen so far for funding their respective vaccine candidates. Besides Inovio, they include Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceutical), AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Merck, Vaxart, and Novavax.

 

Inovio CEO Joseph Kim says the medication is the only DNA vaccine that is stable at room temperature for more than a year and does not need refrigeration for transport or storage for several years. This is a big plus when it comes to vaccinating people in developing countries, where it is harder to maintain the cold chain needed to preserve many products.

According to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a total of 23 COVID-19 vaccine projects have launched clinical trials on humans. Several have moved to phase two or three, injecting the vaccine into tens of thousands of volunteers. 

 


A vaccine created by US biotech firm Moderna and one from Oxford University in collaboration with British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca are among those in the most advanced stages of development, as are several Chinese projects.  These include one from the company CanSinoBIO, which has received permission to administer the vaccine to Chinese soldiers.