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US Army Scientists Develop new Covid Vaccine

23.12.2021 - US Army scientists working at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research attached to the US military medical center of the same name have hinted at promising results from early stage clinical trials with a newly developed vaccine they believe could be capable of targeting all coronaviruses, including mutations of the virus currently causing Covid-19.

Data from the Phase 1 trial that started in April are expected to be published as soon as all data are analyzed, which could be before the end of the year. “Everything that we have been seeing from early stages of design of our vaccine and testing, in all different animal species, has really just been consistent and predictive of a very good response,” Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch, said in a recent interview with the McClatchy news service.

 The experimental vaccine called SpFN, he said, may eventually be used by people who have already received other Covid-19 vaccines as a bridge toward providing continued, broad, long-term immunity for SARS-like viruses, whether variants or new species. Modus operandi of the vaccine is to deploy what the developers call a “soccer ball-shaped protein” that can target the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on its different faces.

Should the results of the Phase 1 trials be positive, it will fall to the US Department of Defense and the administration of US president Joe Biden, in cooperation with private industry partners, to develop a strategy for proceeding with large-scale clinical trials and potential manufacturing. The infectious disease expert stressed that it will be essential for the US government to work together with industry to develop any widely deployed vaccine.

In this vein, vaccine market watchers commented that in view of the currently sidelined squabble between the US National Institutes of Health and biotech Moderna over patent rights, it also could be important for the two sides to clarify from the outset what the terms of any future collaboration could look like.  On the testing side, at least, the labs that carried out immune response tests for the vaccines currently used in the US are the same ones analyzing SpFN, so that the results will be comparable, the Walter Reed expert pointed out.

While Modjarrad noted that a new vaccine would help to get ahead of any future epidemic – scientists are aware that there is a need for a pan-coronavirus vaccine as well as a pan-influenza vaccine – he said it could also be use in the current pandemic, which is far from being over. One of the Walter Reed team’s nightmare scenarios, he said, is the merger of two viruses good at escaping vaccinated individuals’ immunity, especially in regions where many people remain unvaccinated.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist

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