University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) team has seen promising results in their clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.
The team began research in early January, starting the day the World Health Organization (WHO) announced there was a new disease spreading in China.
They started by finding a sequence for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, before designing a vaccine for it. The vaccine has been tested on ferrets and hamsters.
“For respiratory diseases in general, they’re a very good model,” USask VIDO-InterVac director and CEO Volker Gerdts explained.
“For this one, the virus uses receptors to get into the O cells and the receptors in ferrets are very similar to the receptors we find in humans.”
The animals showed a strong immune response to SARS-CoV-2 when vaccinated. They generated neutralizing antibodies and the infection was nearly undetectable in the respiratory tract.
Twenty-four animals have been tested showing these results. The research team will continue tests on animals, but have made enough progress to start thinking about testing the vaccine on people.
Safety studies will be developed this summer.
“That’s very important to demonstrate that the vaccine is safe for use in humans,” Gerdts said.
“To that end, we have already been manufacturing the material that the clinical grade that you need to use in humans.”
Gerdts said his team has already received over 20 inquiries with interest in being tested.
Once deemed safe, human clinical trials will be coordinated by a research unit at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.
Tests will be done on a volunteer basis across the country and are expected to begin in the fall. Researchers hope to test different age groups and people with different health backgrounds.
VIDO-InterVac’s COVID-19 vaccine development has been funded provincially and federally.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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