Scientists in search of universal coronavirus vaccine

While vaccine makers are working to target new forms of COVID-19, scientists are looking ahead and looking for a universal coronavirus vaccine that can tackle future strains or even prevent another pandemic. Can you

a mutant virus

Since the discovery of the first anti-Covid vaccine has led to a new generation of serum, much work has been done to develop pan-coronavirus immunity with varying levels of ambition. Drew Weisman of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the pioneers of the messenger RNA technology used in Pfizer’s vaccine, is leading one such project. In his view, the adaptation of existing vaccines to all existing strains – a plan Pfizer announced a few weeks ago in this direction – has one major limitation: “New versions will appear every three or six months.”

However, after more than two years of trying to infect as many humans as possible, the virus is beginning to mutate specifically to prevent immunity gained through vaccines – in much the same way as the flu’s sustained mutation, whose This requires a serum change every year, he explains. “It complicates things a bit, because we are now fighting the virus face to face”, Drew Weisman said.

a universal vaccine

That’s why his team is working on a universal anti-coronavirus vaccine. She tries to find the “epitope sequence” [déterminant antigénique] Very well preserved” – fragments of the whole virus that cannot mutate easily because the virus would die without them.

Covid-19 is not the first coronavirus to jump from animals to humans this century: its oldest relative, Sar, killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2004, and Mers-CoV (respiratory syndrome coronavirus from the Middle East) in 2012. followed. In March 2020, when US biotech VBI Vaccines announced its pan-coronavirus project in the early days of the pandemic, it was targeting these three coronaviruses.

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If we imagine that each antigen in their vaccine is a primary colour, these researchers hope that their vaccine is responsible not only for these colours, but for the “various shades of orange, green and purple found among these colours”. will also provide antibodies. Diaz-Mitoma, Chief Medical Officer of VBI.

” a step ahead “

Vaccine trials of VBI so far have shown promise – involving bats and pangolins, and the biotech expects to begin clinical studies for results in the coming months as early as 2023.

Another project using ferritin nanoparticles, led by Barton Haynes, director of the Human Vaccines Institute at Duke University in the United States, has received funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. According to Barton Haynes, this vaccine, which targets viruses such as SARS, but not a wide range of coronaviruses such as Mers, has been shown to be effective against Omicron.

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