India's arsenal of weapons against COVID-19 might get a large boost. A new vaccine developed by the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has shown to be effective against all current variants of SARS-CoV-2 in animal trials. The vaccine was developed to be effective even at high temperatures.
Here is all you need to know about the IISc-Mynvax vaccine
What is the vaccine?
The new vaccine was developed by biotech start-up Mynvax, which was being incubated by IISc, Bengaluru. The main advantage of the new vaccine is that it is stable at higher temperatures. According to the researchers, the new vaccine formulation would remain stable even at 37°C for up to a month, and at 100°C for up to 90 minutes.
The increased thermostable nature of the vaccine will allow it to be distributed more easily and widely without logistical constraints. The current generation of COVID-19 vaccines, and even vaccines in general, require low temperatures in order to remain effective.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, manufactured in India under the name of Covishield, needs to be kept within temperatures of 2-8°C. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with its mRNA technology needs to be kept at even lower temperatures of -70°C.
The low-temperature requirements for vaccines present logistical hurdles for the distribution of vaccines in countries with hotter climates and poorer countries that lack the proper infrastructure.
The vaccine uses a part of the SARS CoV-2 spike protein known as the receptor-binding domain, to incite antibody generation.
How effective is the vaccine?
Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), along with the University of York, CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), New Delhi, Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad, the CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh and IISc, Bengaluru conducted their research on the effectiveness of the vaccines in mice.
"Our data show that all formulations of Mynvax tested result in antibodies capable of consistent and effective neutralisation of the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern," said S S Vasan, the CSIRO COVID-19 project leader and one of the lead authors of the study.
The research paper was published in the ACS Infectious Diseases journal and showed that the vaccine generated a strong immune response in mice, from the mice sera collected. The effectiveness of the vaccine against the Delta variant was especially a strong advocate for the use of the vaccine.
When will it be available for humans?
The makers of the vaccine had applied for the necessary permits to start Phase I/II and Phase III human trials in India but required additional funding.
"We would require at least Rs 30 crore for the trials and at this moment, all I can say is that funding has been applied for,” said professor Raghavan Varadarajan, lead author of the study.
While the two phases of the trial take a non-negligible time, the vaccine may be available in the latter half of 2022 based on the speed of other COVID-19 vaccine developments. While the vaccine has proven to be effective in mice, human trials will establish whether the vaccine will be effective enough in humans.
A thermostable vaccine will allow COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed to low and middle-income countries that urgently need more vaccines to prevent the further spread of the disease.
"A thermostable or 'warm vaccine' is critical for remote or resource-limited locations with extremely hot climates which lack reliable cold storage supply chains, including regional communities in Australia's outback and the Indo-Pacific region," said Rob Grenfell, CSIRO's Health and Biosecurity Director.
First Published: IST