The vaccine could be ready within a few weeks and available in 90 days if all continues going according to plan, Akunis noted.
“Congratulations to MIGAL [The Galilee Research Institute] on this exciting breakthrough. I am confident there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,” Akunis is quoted as saying, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The scientists have also been working over the last four years to develop a vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), a coronavirus that affects chickens. After scientists sequenced the DNA of COVID-19, MIGAL researchers discovered that IBV is very genetically similar to the novel coronavirus and uses the same infection method. Given the fact that Israeli scientists have been working on an IBV vaccine, they could be able to develop a human vaccine for COVID-19 very quickly, Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotechnology group leader, explained.
“Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus. The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus,” Katz explained, referring to the IBV vaccine.
Endocytosis is a cellular process in which substances are absorbed into the cell. The material is internalized inside the cell to generate a vesicle of the ingested material.
“All we need to do is adjust the system to the new sequence,” Katz added, explaining how the IBV vaccine would be modified for COVID-19. “We are in the middle of this process, and hopefully in a few weeks we will have the vaccine in our hands. Yes, in a few weeks, if it all works, we would have a vaccine to prevent coronavirus.”
Even though MIGAL is working on developing the new vaccine, the drug would still need to undergo clinical trials and large-scale production before becoming commercially available.
According to MIGAL CEO David Zigdon, they are trying to get the new vaccine approved as soon as possible.
“Given the urgent global need for a human coronavirus vaccine, we are doing everything we can to accelerate development,” Zigdon explained, adding that the oral vaccine could “achieve safety approval in 90 days.”
“We are currently in intensive discussions with potential partners that can help accelerate the in-human trials phase and expedite completion of final-product development and regulatory activities,” Zigdon confirmed.
The latest data by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering reveals that almost 84,000 people have been infected with the virus. The virus has also led to the deaths of almost 3,000 people.
Multiple pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna Inc., Gilead Sciences Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, announced in February that they plan to develop treatments for the coronavirus. The US Department of Health and Human Services also announced that it has partnered with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., an American biotechnology company, to develop a treatment for the disease. A group of British scientists at Imperial College London also started testing a vaccine on mice for COVID-19 in February.