by Biotech Express Bureau | Updated on April 20, 2020
There is no cure (or vaccine) against COVID19; Doctors can only relieve the symptoms. Since it is a new pathogen the chances of making a candidate vaccine very soon are very low, yet world’s scientists are working rigorously to find one. The biotech industry, both by pharmaceutical companies and research organisations across the world are working on the development of novel coronavirus vaccines and possible treatment.
But to kill the virus a chemical or biological entity is required which takes time for discovery, approval and gain trust.
The most effective agent for any viral disease is vaccine. Vaccine attenuates the virus and also helps our immune system to destroy and recognize the virus by making antibodies.
According to a post update of Livemint.com on 16th April, nearly 70 ‘vaccine candidates’ are being tested and at least three have moved to the human clinical trial stage, but a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021.
The pioneer research from India seeking for vaccine candidate came after Scientists, led by Shailendra K. Saxena, sequenced the genes that encode the spike (S) proteins in the outer layer of two strains of coronaviruses isolated from the seafood market of Wuhan, where the novel virus first emerged. They then compared the S protein-coding genes of the novel coronaviruses with those of different strains of SARS-CoV that usually infects bats. The study was published online on 28 March 2020 in Nature.
In a statement of 27th March, the Indian Council for Medical Research said on Friday that India is likely to participate in the solidarity trial of coronavirus vaccine to be conducted by the World Health Organization. “We are likely to start our participation soon in solidarity trial that the World Health Organization is starting.
Earlier we did not do it because our numbers were so small that our contribution would have looked minuscule. The ICMR has asked the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to undertake vaccine development programme.
On 9th April, two candidate vaccines for COVID-19 have entered the first phase of human clinical trials and another 60 candidate vaccines were in pre-clinical studies, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed.
The most recent vaccine candidate jointly developed by CanSino Biological Inc and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology uses the non-replicating viral vector as the platform, same as the non-corona candidates like Ebola, to develop a vaccine with a ‘Adenovirus Type 5’ candidate.
US drugmaker Gilead is racing against time with its anti-viral drug Remdesivir. This anti-viral drug is undergoing large trials in China and could be a front runner in coronavirus treatments. According to the company, the drug showed good results in animal testing against MERS and SARS, both of which are also types of coronaviruses. This experimental drug was also been tested against Ebola, however, despite success in animal testing, the drug did not fare too well in humans. The drug is yet not approved to treat any disease, but the company is hoping it could be an effective treatment against Coronavirus.
Another US biopharma company Altimmune is working on an intranasal coronavirus vaccine, which is being developed based on a vaccine technology platform similar to NasoVAX, the influenza vaccine developed by Altimmune. Animal testing will begin shortly.
mRNA-1273 vaccine by Moderna and Vaccine Research Center entered in phase one clinical trials in April.
China’s National Medical Products Administration has approved Favilavir, an anti-viral drug as a treatment against coronavirus. The drug is being touted as the first approved coronavirus drug. While clinical trials are still ongoing in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, results of clinical trials involving 70 patients reportedly showed treatment efficacy with very little side effects.
Korean drugmaker Ilyang Pharma has claimed that its Leukemia drug Supect is found effective against coronavirus. However, it is still to be approved by drug authorities in the country.
Indian drug regulator has approved “restricted use” of combination Liponavir and Ritonavir. This was used by doctors in Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Hospital who claim to have successfully cured Italian COVID-19 patients using a combination of these drugs with swine flu and malaria drugs. Experts said a lot more clinical trials are needed to establish replicability of this treatment.Some Indian firms taking the lead are Serum Institute of India and Zydus Cadila who have disclosed their candidates for coronavirus vaccine.
In India Adar C. Poonawalla, CEO of Pune-based Serum Institute of India(SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, announced that SII has collaborated with two American companies to develop a Make in India Covid-19 vaccine.
More recently, plasma therapy has been used in the treatment of diseases like SARS in 2003, which was also caused by a coronavirus, as well as MERS in 2012.The therapy is the Convalescent Plasma Therapy. Chances of treating coronavirus patients with plasma therapy are looking up, with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) hoping to begin clinical trials within the next two weeks. Several states, including Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have sought permission from the Centre to conduct plasma therapy to treat coronavirus patients.
An international effort, ‘The coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations’ (CEPI), a global collaboration between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations to develop vaccines for infectious disease epidemics, is currently supporting developmental work on four vaccine candidates.Research organisations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US and Indian Council of Medical Research are also developing a vaccine for the coronavirus.
5.Study uncovers routes to vaccine for novel Coronavirus doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.52 Published online 28 March 2020