The development of mRNA vaccines, a long-promised and much-promoted biotechnology, is viewed as a major victory of medical research spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, millions of people have been inoculated with these new vaccines, which include both the Pfizer / BioNTech ammunition and also Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
However mRNA vaccine technology is not the only immunological innovation that can emerge from the pandemic. Now, a UK-based company called Emergex is preparing to test a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine based on a radical new technology. Unlike messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines – which inject a custom-made strand of message RNA that generates Spike proteins inside the human body – this new vaccine technology is delivered through a skin patch, and relies on T cells that are white blood cells. which are. part of the immune system, to kill infected cells.
It is believed that a T-cell vaccine would elicit a faster and lasting response to fight the infection.
“Although current vaccines against COVID-19 have made significant progress in reducing mortality and disease, challenges remain, especially with the development of new variants,” said Professor Blaise Genton, Chief Researcher for the Center for Primary Care and Public Health trial ( Unisante) at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. “This exciting new scientific approach to developing a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 addresses the need to generate a T-cell response to elicit long-term immunity.”
One of the constituent types of immune system cells, T cells play a vital role in fighting threatening foreign substances in the human body. Unlike some immune system cells, T cells do not attack any foreign body; rather, they are laser-focused only on specific pathogens. This trait, researchers believe, could be exploited so that their vaccine could absorb a T-cell response in the human body – without actually giving their immune system the dangerous SARS-CoV-2 virus first.
The proposed Emergex vaccine would prepare T cells to remove infected cells from the body immediately after being infected. This would prevent the virus from reproducing and progressing to COVID-19. By targeting and preparing the T cells, this would also reduce the transmission between infected and non-infected humans as it would prevent the virus from reproducing and prevent the onset of symptoms.
Current vaccines elicit an antibody response that prevents the virus from affecting cells, but researchers believe that targeting the T cells directly could be a more direct approach. Of course, this mechanism of action is still being demonstrated until it is rigorously tested in clinical trials.
As Genton noted, this new vaccine technology is theorized to provide longer-lasting immunity than the current vaccines on the market, which may decrease over time in their effectiveness.
Robin Cohen, the company’s chief sales officer, compared the vaccine’s technology to an asteroid hitting a planet, according to The Guardian.
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“The virus is the asteroid: it shoots into the planet and a virus code, a signature for that virus, is quickly displayed all over the surface,” Cohen said. “These signatures are read by T cells as foreign, and the T cells kill the cell before it can produce new living viruses.”
Interestingly, the vaccine will be administered not with a needle, but as a skin patch the size of a thumbnail. Small, tiny micro-pins release the shot within seconds. Unlike the mRNA Modern and Pfizer vaccines that must be stored in a freezer – or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that must be stored in a refrigerator – the Emergex vaccine can survive up to three months at room temperature. However, it is a two-dose vaccine, similar to the Pfizer or Modern vaccines.
“Our T-cell vaccines can offer significant benefits over current COVID-19 vaccines including longer-lasting immunity and broader protection against new variants,” Cohen said. “We are proud to announce the start of this trial and look forward to collecting data to support the development of this important next-generation vaccine.”
The first phase of the clinical trial is small, and involves two groups of 13 volunteers who will receive high and low doses of the vaccine or placebo. As a double-blind study, neither the patients nor the researchers know in which study group the patients are during the trial. The first patient is expected to receive his first dose of the vaccine in early January 2022.
As the last two years have revealed, the process of vaccine development is very involved and can take months or years. In the United States, there are set processes that every pharmaceutical company must follow to obtain approval. These begin with a preclinical test, and then three phases of testing before being approved.
If the Emergex vaccines succeed with their clinical trials, and are approved for global use, it could be another way to effectively deploy and administer a vaccine around the world.
“Emergex vaccines have been designed to be administered through the skin with micronads and to be stable at ambient room temperature for more than three months, facilitating rapid and effective distribution around the world and making vaccine administration more patient friendly,” the company stated en. press release.