A biotechnology firm has started a human trial of a new COVID19 vaccine, which will target new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The company has claimed that the new vaccine will be effective on new strains, which might evade currently available vaccines. Since the vaccine rollout has started around the world, new mutations of the virus have been circulating in the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and the US. Experts have said that the experimental vaccine is being developed as a fallback plan if new strains of the virus become a hurdle in the fight against the COVID19 pandemic. The CEO of the company Gritstone Oncology, Andrew Allen has said that the new vaccine has delivered great results in a short time. As per the experts, the development of the vaccine is a part of pandemic preparedness. Preclinical outcomes of the vaccine have been supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well. The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease will be conducting the phase 1 trial of the vaccine along with the firm. The biotech company will be investing in the production of the new vaccine candidate. However, experts have not disclosed the results of the preclinical study on the vaccine.
The company Gritstone Oncology has been established in 2018 and has raised around $100 million so far. Recently the investors of the firm have lost faith in the firm’s strategy of using vaccine technology to develop cancer immunotherapies. Therefore, the shares of the company have fallen rapidly. At present, the firm has a market capitalization of just $300 million. The World Health Organization has said that there are at least 64 such projects in the pipeline. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two vaccines, one from Pfizer and BioNtech, and the second from Moderna for emergency use in the US so far. The CEO of the company has said that the origin of a new strain of the virus in South Africa has encouraged the company to come up with its own version of the vaccine. In a new study, experts have claimed that one of the mutations in the strain, which has been found in South Africa and has been seen in another variant found in Brazil, has been able to evade antibodies, which are produced after the initial infection.
Recently some of the experts from South Africa have seen that in some cases, antibodies generated from an initial infection have failed to fight against the infection from the new variant of the virus. There is a lot of ambiguity about how the new strains of the virus would interact with the antibodies created after inoculation. Andrew Allen has said that all available vaccines target the spike protein of the virus, which the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to infect the human body. On the other hand, the company is planning to develop a vaccine, which can trigger an innate immune response to other antigens of the pathogen, which will make it harder for the virus to dodge the vaccine. The approach of the company to develop this vaccine is to combine two different types of vaccines. Experts have said that the first dose of the vaccine will be based on adenovirus. Adenovirus is a group of viruses, which can lead to common cold-like illness. This experimental vaccine will be similar to the vaccine, which is being developed by Johnson and Johnson. The second dose of the vaccine will be based on an mRNA vaccine like the vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer and BioNtech.