Israeli scientists are on the verge of a medical breakthrough regarding a vaccine against the new coronavirus outbreak, says Science and Technology Minister, Ofir Akunis. If the testing and development go well, the crucial vaccine could be ready for shipment in three months, according to Jerusalem Post.
“Congratulations to MIGAL [The Galilee Research Institute] on this exciting breakthrough,” Akunis said. “I am confident there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,”, referring to the symptoms caused by the looming epidemic.
Yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the CDC’s infectious disease unit, states that even though the Phase 1 trials are done with preparations for a functional vaccine, the US medical staff won’t be able to present a vaccine ready for human use for another year to 18 months.
These past four years, a team of MIGAL scientists in Galilee has been working on the steady development of a vaccine against a strain of highly infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) which targets chickens and other flightless birds. The Veterinary Institute conducted successful preclinical trials to prove the effectiveness of the IBV strain.
Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotechnology chief member elaborates on the general purpose of the vaccine: “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.”
In the preclinical trials, Katz’s team proved that a certain oral vaccination induces high levels of antibodies, effective enough to counter particular bronchitis virus antibodies, Katz said.
“Let’s call it pure luck,” Katz adds. “We decided to choose coronavirus as a model for our system just as a proof of concept for our technology,” emphasizing the shift of purpose when the team recently began developing the cure.
After a brief test and DNA-sequencing, the MIGAL deducted that the coronavirus’s genetic makeup is almost completely similar to the human one. This gives the team plenty of hope to create a working vaccine in no time. Reportedly, they found out that the bronchitis virus works with the same pattern of infection with the coronavirus, and this will speed up the process of developing an effective cure.
“All we need to do is adjust the system to the new sequence,” he said. “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.”
Hopefully, after going through a regulatory testing process and clinical trials, the vaccine will be available on the market. Akunis has ordered the health director-general to speed up the approval processes: “Given the urgent global need for a human coronavirus vaccine, we are doing everything we can to accelerate development.”
Additionally, MIGAL CEO David Zigdon says that the vaccine could achieve safety approval in 90 days, further cementing the optimism surrounding the vaccine’s rapid greenlighting. Since it’s an oral vaccine, this will ensure its high accessibility to the general public.
vacZigdon adds: “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.”
Michael Peres — Mikey to his friends — was born in Montreal, the biggest city in Canada’s Quebec province, in an orthodox Jewish community. Since then, his life has taken a few different twists and turns, but currently, he’s as a software engineer, mathematician, founder, radio host, and a full-time traveller. Peres currently resides in Seattle, Washington, which he uses as an operating base for his various projects.