A skin patch vaccine tested in mice has been found to neutralise the coronavirus, raising hopes for a potential vaccine in humans, experts say.
The fingertip-sized patch can combat the virus through a process that involves producing enough antibodies.
Dr Andrea Gambotto, study co- author, said:
“We had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014.
These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus.
We knew exactly where to fight this new virus.
That’s why it’s important to fund vaccine research. You never know where the next pandemic will come from.”
The researchers from the University of Pittsburgh call their vaccine candidate PittCoVacc short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine.
The potential vaccine works in a similar way as current flu jabs, using a viral protein made in the lab to fight infection.
It comes in a fingertip-sized patch formed of tiny needles in order to improve the potency of the drug.
The needles deliver the spike protein into the skin as the immune response in this area of the body is very strong.
The needles are actually pieces of protein and sugar which are dissolved by the skin.
Professor Louis Falo, study co-author, said:
“We developed this to build on the original scratch method used to deliver the smallpox vaccine to the skin, but as a high-tech version that is more efficient and reproducible patient to patient.
And it’s actually pretty painless — it feels kind of like Velcro.”
If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves this new drug for human clinical trial then the researchers will start a phase 1 clinical trial to ensure its effectiveness and safety for people.
Professor Falo said:
“Testing in patients would typically require at least a year and probably longer.
This particular situation is different from anything we’ve ever seen, so we don’t know how long the clinical development process will take.
Recently announced revisions to the normal processes suggest we may be able to advance this faster.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the journal EBioMedicine (Kim et al., 2020).