London: The University of Cambridge on Wednesday confirmed plans to begin trials of a potential new vaccine not only against COVID-19 but all coronaviruses that may spill over from animals to humans in the future.
The new vaccine candidate, DIOS-CoVax2, uses banks of genetic sequences of all known coronaviruses, including those from bats, believed to be the natural hosts of many relatives of human coronaviruses.
A vaccine that clears all trials can then be delivered pain-free without a needle into the skin through a spring-powered jet injection.
Our approach involves 3D computer modelling of the SARS-CoV-2 [Covid-19] virus' structure. It uses information on the virus itself as well as its relatives SARS, MERS and other coronaviruses carried by animals that threaten to spill-over' to humans again to cause future human epidemics, said Professor Jonathan Heeney, head of the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics at the University of Cambridge, and founder of DIOSynVax a Cambridge spin-out company.
We're looking for chinks in its armour, crucial pieces of the virus that we can use to construct the vaccine to direct the immune response in the right direction. Ultimately we aim to make a vaccine that will not only protect from SARS-CoV-2, but also other related coronaviruses that may spill over from animals to humans, he said.
Prof Heeney said his team's strategy involves targeting those domains of the virus' structure that are absolutely critical for docking with a cell, while avoiding the parts that could make things worse.
What we end up with is a mimic, a synthetic part of the virus minus those non-essential elements that could trigger a bad immune response, he added.
His team have developed libraries of computer-generated antigen structures encoded by synthetic genes that can train the human immune system to target key regions of the virus and to produce beneficial anti-viral responses.
These immune responses include neutralising antibodies, which block virus infection, and T-cells, which remove virus-infected cells.
This so-called laser-specific computer generated approach is able to help avoid the adverse hyper-inflammatory immune responses that can be triggered by recognition of the wrong parts on the coronavirus' surface.
Most research groups have used established approaches to vaccine development because of the urgent need to tackle the pandemic. We all hope the current clinical trials have a positive outcome, but even successful vaccines are likely to have their limitations they may be unsuitable for vulnerable people, and we do not know how long their effects will last for, for example, said Dr Rebecca Kinsley, Chief Operating Officer of DIOSynVax and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge.
Our approach using synthetic DNA to deliver custom designed, immune selected vaccine antigens is revolutionary and is ideal for complex viruses such as coronavirus. If successful, it will result in a vaccine that should be safe for widespread use and that can be manufactured and distributed at low cost, she said.
DIOS-CoVax2, which hopes to go into human trials by later this year, is the latest vaccine candidate to be backed by the UK government with 1.9 million pounds in funding as part of a collaboration between DIOSynVax, which is contributing an additional 400,000 pounds to the trial, the University of Cambridge and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.
The team say their proposed new vaccine can be freeze-dried as a powder and is therefore heat stable, meaning that it does not need to be cold-stored. This makes transport and storage much more straightforward, particularly important in low and middle income countries, and it can be delivered through PharmaJet Tropis intradermal Needle-free Injection System, which delivers the vaccine in less than a 1/10th of a second jet injection.
Professor Saul Faust, Director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, said: It is especially exciting that the clinical trial will test giving the vaccine through people's skin using a device without any needles as together with stable DNA vaccine technology this could be a major breakthrough in being able to give a future vaccine to huge numbers of people across the world.
The news comes as the University of Oxford revealed that its trials of a potential vaccine against COVID-19 being developed with AstraZeneca could be put before regulators this year if scientists are able to gather enough data.
The Oxford vaccine, as it is commonly known, showed early promise in the first human trial when it produced an immune response, underlining its position as one of the leading candidates in the race to help vaccinate humans against the deadly novel coronavirus.
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New Delhi, May 16: The Centre directed Uttar Pradesh and Bihar on Sunday to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga and its tributaries, and focus on their safe disposal and a dignified cremation after corpses were seen floating in these rivers following a spurt in the number of coronavirus cases.
At a review meeting conducted on May 15-16, the Centre said dumping of dead bodies and partially burnt or decomposed corpses in the Ganga and its tributaries has recently been reported, which is "most undesirable and alarming".
"Namami Gange directs states to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga and focus on their safe disposal and providing support for ensuring dignified cremation," the Jal Shakti Ministry said.
The state pollution control boards were directed to monitor the water quality more frequently in consultations with the health departments.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was assigned the task of overall monitoring, providing guidance to the state pollution control boards and taking up advanced analysis in the matter.
Support for cremation needs to be given top priority. Effective implementation of the government orders needs to be ensured. No loss of time should take place in implementation, the ministry said.
An advisory was issued by Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga, to the district magistrates, who are also the chairpersons of the district Ganga committees, on May 11.
This was followed up by a letter the next day to the chief secretaries to prevent the dumping of dead bodies in the river and ensure enforcement of the government guidelines on the cremation of COVID-19 victims.
The letter also advised the states to provide financial assistance as well as regulate the rates for the cremation or burial process.
On May 15, the steps taken in this regard in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were reviewed at a meeting chaired Pankaj Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti, and further action points were decided.
Highlighting the instructions already given, Kumar had called for expeditious action and underscored the need to give equal attention to such incidents in urban and rural areas along the Ganga and other rivers.
"Stopping of dumping of dead bodies as well as their safe disposal and protection of water quality have to be ensured on a war footing. After knowing the progress from the states, the CWC (Central Water Commission), the CPCB and the state pollution control boards would also be giving their feedback and action plans," he had said.
Mishra stated that the situation is being monitored and follow-up action is being taken in several districts such as Unnao, Kanpur rural, Ghazipur and Balia in Uttar Pradesh and Buxar and Saran in Bihar.
However, some cases have also been reported from other districts. He asked the state missions to keep an eye on the situation.
Mishra emphasised the need to strengthen enforcement, maintain vigil and take proactive action to facilitate and support the families for the cremation of the bodies and asked the state missions to specifically report on this.
"If needed, the project directors can assess and also give support to the district Ganga committees for this out of the NMCG funds available with them, while keeping the NMCG informed," he said.
Rajnish Dubey, Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development, and Anurag Shrivastav, Principal Secretary, Jal Shakti and Project Director, State Ganga Mission, represented Uttar Pradesh in the meeting.
Shrivastava said all the district magistrates have been alerted about the issue and patrolling is being carried out to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga.
He also informed that 13 crematoria under Namami Gange, in addition to the existing ones, have been made available for the cremation of dead bodies.
It was informed that orders have been issued for financial support for cremations in urban areas. Dubey said similar orders for a financial support of Rs 5,000 have been issued by the Panchayati Raj department for rural areas and the SDRF and other forces have also been asked to carry out patrolling.
Anand Kishore, Principal Secretary, Urban Development and Project Director, State Ganga Mission, Government of Bihar, informed that it has been decided that the cremation or burial expenses of those dying due to COVID-19 will be borne by the state government.
He added that even if the deceased did not have a COVID-positive report but showed symptoms of the disease, the family will be offered this support.
He also said patrolling is being done to prevent further dumping of dead bodies in the river, especially in districts like Buxar and Saran (Chhapra).
CWC Chairman S K Halder informed that they are monitoring the flow and the water quality of the river through their stations and will further increase the frequency.
CPCB Member Secretary Prashant Gargava said the board has forewarned all water monitoring stations along the Ganga and her tributaries. The periodicity of testing the water quality has also been increased.
Debashree Mukherjee, Additional Secretary with the Jal Shakti Ministry, stated that besides an urgent assessment of the risks to the riverside communities by the pollution control boards, there is a need to raise awareness on the dos and don'ts as regards the use of river water and to prevent such incidents of dumping of bodies in the river.