Vaccine against coronavirus passes tests in mice
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen are working on a vaccine against COVID-19. The vaccine has been tested in mice and shows promising results. The researchers hope to commence clinical trials before the end of the year.
A team of researchers from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen have been working at full throttle to develop a vaccine against coronavirus ever since SARS-CoV-2 began to spread across the world.
They have now reached an important milestone in their efforts to develop a virus against the highly infectious disease. They have spent the past two months testing the vaccine in mice. And the results are promising, the researchers say.
“We have tested the vaccine in mice and achieved positive immune responses. It is an important step on the way. It is vital we are able to present these results, because it means we can continue as planned. Without these results we would not have been able to proceed,” says Professor Ali Salanti.
The researchers have developed the vaccine technology they use in their work. The technology is called cVLP, which stands for ‘capsid Virus-Like Particle’.
So-called coronavirus antigens are attached to the cVLP. Subsequently, the body’s immune system will respond to the antigens, produce antibodies and thus hopefully become immune to the disease. This has now been achieved in mice.
After getting the vaccine, the mice produced large amounts of antibodies able to neutralise SARS-CoV-2 virus. The amount and quality of these vaccine-induced antibodies have been tested directly on SARS-CoV-2 virus in two independently laboratories headed by Professor Søren Riis Paludan at Aarhus University and Professor Marjolein Kikkert, Leiden University Medical Center, which are part of the consortium Prevent-nCov.
“It is important to be able to produce a lot of doses of vaccine and at low cost, if possible. The data available to us right now show that we are able to produce millions of doses in relatively small bioreactors,” says Associate Professor Morten Agertoug Nielsen.
The actual response is several hundred times stronger than for antigen vaccines not involving the cVLP. And according to the researchers, the capacity of the blood of the mice to neutralise virus is significantly greater than seen in COVID-19 vaccines published by other researchers and companies.
“It is a milestone, getting such a markedly strong SARS-CoV-2 virus-neutralising response in mice. It is very promising. We hope to be able to launch the first clinical trials on humans in six months,” says Associate Professor Adam Sander.
The work on the vaccine is conducted together with the Prevent-nCov consortium, which the researchers are a part of. The consortium has received a DKK 20-million grant from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
The team has also received a DKK 25-million grant from the Carlsberg Foundation and DKK five million from the Gudbjørg and Ejnar Honoré Foundation for developing the vaccine.
* The Prevent-nCov consortium consists of the companies AdaptVac andExpreS2ion as well as the Department of Immunology and Microbiology (UCPH), the Leiden University Medical Center, the Institute for Tropical Medicine (University of Tübingen) and the Laboratory of Virology (Wageningen University).
* Together Associate Professor Morten Agertoug Nielsen, Associate Professor Adam Sander and Professor Ali Salanti have founded the spinout NextGen Vaccines, which has formed the joint venture AdaptVac together with the private biotech company ExpreS2ion. All three cooperate on developing new vaccines – including the vaccine against the new type of coronavirus.
* AdaptVac has entered into an agreement with the global company AGC Biologics on the future production of the vaccine.
* In addition, AdaptVac has entered into a preliminary license agreement with the company Bavarian Nordic on using the vaccine technology developed by the researchers at the University of Copenhagen. The University of Copenhagen owns the patent on the technology. The agreement is a sublicense to use the patented vaccine technology in this context.
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