Vaccines against COVID-19 will hopefully give broad parts of the human population a safe level of immunity and are considered crucial to ending the current coronavirus pandemic.
So, a vaccine to protect against coronavirus COVID-19 is urgently needed. While some researchers say a vaccine could be ready by the end of this year, others say it could take much longer, partly because they must be proven to be extremely safe, since they are given to healthy people. Without attempting to give a complete overview on the current vaccines development, below are listed companies, universities and research labs currently working on the development of vaccines against COVID-19. Some of them are really close to the accomplishment of the desperately needed task.
- Oxford University, AstraZeneca Plc (product name: ChAdOxn Cov-19)
The vaccine is made from a harmless virus that has been altered to produce the surface spike protein from SARS-CoV-2. The U.S. government has pledged as much as $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca to help make the University of Oxford’s vaccine, targeting production of hundreds of millions of doses. In a separate deal, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will provide $750 million in backing for another 300 million doses. AstraZeneca plans to produce as many as 30 million doses available in the United Kingdom by September this year.
- Moderna Inc. (mRNA-1273)
Moderna’s vaccine uses messenger RNA to prompt the body to make a key protein from the virus, creating an immune response. On May 18, Moderna announced partial results from a small study showing that its vaccine could create an immune-system response against the coronavirus, with no major safety worries so far. Moderna expects a phase 3 trial with thousands of healthy subjects to begin in July, while a second-stage trial in 600 subjects that will help refine dosing is underway. The company announced in April that it will get as much as $483 million from the U.S. to develop and test the vaccine. It has also entered a pact with Lonza Group AG aimed at manufacturing 1 billion doses a year.
- CanSino Biologics Inc. (Ad5-nCoV)
CanSino’s vaccine was developed alongside China’s military and is genetically engineered with a replication-defective mutant virus. The vaccine is safe and generated an immune response in an early study in humans, according to results published in the Lancet on May 22. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31208
This first-in-human trial was a dose-escalation, open-label, non-randomised human study on safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the recombinant adenovirus type-5 vectored COVID-19 vaccine.
- BioNTech SE, Pfizer Inc. (BNT162)
BioNTech’s BNT162 is another messenger RNA vaccine that the German company is developing together with Pfizer. In China, BioNTech is co-developing the vaccine with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group. BioNTech and Pfizer expanded an existing accord for flu vaccines to encompass a Covid-19 vaccine in March. The companies started testing the inoculations in patients in Germany in late April. The aim is to identify the best shot and have it ready for emergency use by autumn this year and be able to supply tens of millions of doses by the end of 2020.
- Sinovac Biotech Ltd. (no name yet of the product)
The vaccine uses inactivated virus, which can help the body develop antibodies to the pathogen without risking infection. Sinovac company is based in Beijing, is Nasdaq-listed and got Chinese regulators’ approval in April to test its vaccine candidate on 144 adults in a blinded clinical trial in China. Two-thirds of patients are being given the vaccine while the rest get placebo shots. The company said its vaccine candidate can neutralize different strains of the virus.
- China National Biotec Group Co., Beijing Institute of Biological Products (no name yet of the product)
The vaccine uses inactivated virus, which can help the body develop antibodies to the pathogen without risking infection. The Chinese state-owned vaccine drugmaker in collaboration with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products has completed phase 2 clinical trials. The vaccine is expected to be available as soon as the end of this year. The company has a manufacturing capacity for 100 million to 120 million doses per year.
- Novavax Inc. (NVX-CoV2373)
Novavax’s vaccine is meant to create antibodies that block a protein “spike” that the virus uses to infect its host. Novavax selected its vaccine candidate in April after seeing a strong immune response in animal testing. The first-in-human trial in about 130 patients is expected to have preliminary results in July, according to the company.
- Johnson and Johnson (no name yet of the product)
J&J is working on an unnamed adenovirus-based vaccine as well as two backups. The company plans to start first in human studies by September and is ramping up production to make up to one billion doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021. In April, it reached two deals to secure additional manufacturing capacity at facilities in Baltimore and Bloomington (IN). J&J has said its vaccine could be ready for emergency use in health workers by January, and it has a $1 billion agreement with the U.S. government’s biomedical research unit, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), to develop it.
- Sanofi-Glaxo Smith Kline Plc. (no name yet of the product)
Sanofi is working on a vaccine using technology already employed in one of its flu vaccines, which could speed development and production. The French drugmaker announced in February it would work with US government’s biomedical research unit to build on past development work involving the SARS epidemic and technology it already uses for one of its flu vaccines. It has partnered with U.K. rival Glaxo on the project supported by the U.S. and could make 600 million doses annually, a capacity that Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said he aims to double. The companies plan to start human trials in the second half of this year.
- Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (INO-4800)
Inovio’s experimental vaccine uses DNA to activate a patient’s immune system. Inovio and Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology have an agreement to start studying the vaccine in China. Inovio kicked off its vaccine trial in early April. The company targets starting a larger study this summer.
- Merck & Co. (no name yet for the product)
Merck’s two vaccine candidates employ existing technology behind its Ebola virus shot and a measles virus vector platform discovered by the Pasteur Institute, respectively. Merck announced on May 26 that it had partnered with the nonprofit scientific research organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Inc. (IAVI) to develop a vaccine using technology already employed in its Ebola virus shot. IAVI scientists are researching the experimental shot, which is receiving funding from US- BARDA, and may enter human studies later this year. Simultaneously, the company announced it intended to buy biotech Themis, gaining a vaccine candidate that uses an existing measles virus vector platform. Development of the shot has received support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It’s slated to start phase 1 clinical studies within weeks.
- Imperial College London (no name yet for the product)
The RNA vaccine candidate when injected, delivers genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the “spike” protein on the surface of the coronavirus. Researchers have received funding from the United Kingdom for their vaccine project and have said they aim to begin clinical trials in June 2020.
It has been not published yet if any of the vaccines under development contain cyclodextrin as adjuvant. According to Roquette cyclodextrin could also be useful in vaccines against Covid-19:
Non-living vaccine antigens, especially subunit vaccines, are poorly immunogenic and require additional adjuvant components to stimulate immunity. Finding an adjuvant to stimulate efficient, long-lasting and safe immune response is challenging. As an adjuvant, HPβCD induces Type 2 T-helper (Th2) cell response, enhances antigen (vaccine)-specific antibody titers, and maintains longer immune response. Moreover, unlike commonly used adjuvants in human vaccine, such as aluminum salt, HPβCD induces little Immunoglobulin E (IgE) production, which is a risk factor affecting the allergenic potential of vaccines. HPβCD can act as a safe and efficient adjuvant in developing successful vaccines for COVID-19 prevention. Daiichi Sankyo is conducting a Phase I clinical trial in Japan for their HPβCD adjuvanted influenza split vaccine.