Coronavirus Vaccine | COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials: Oxford, Moderna and other top contenders in race to develop a jab


COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials: Oxford, Moderna take early lead in race to develop a jab&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

The novel coronavirus has now killed at least 6,949,890 people all over the world

Researchers are working tirelesly to develop a safe vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus

10 experimental COVID-19 vaccines are already in clinical trials, and here's what you need to know about the top contenders

New Delhi: Researchers across the world are working at a breakneck speed to produce a safe vaccine against the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, which has so far claimed at least 400, 581 lives across the world. Of more than 100 COVID-19 vaccines that are currently under development, at least 10 candidates, including Moderna’s mRNA-1273 and Oxford’s AZD1222, are already in clinical trials. AstraZeneca, a British pharmaceutical giant, said it has begun making the Oxford University’s AZD1222 jab - the first to enter phase 3 studies - in factories in the UK, Switzerland, Norway and India. The Cambridge-based company hopes to have millions of doses in the next few months if the trials are successful.

On average, vaccine development takes about 10 years. However, vaccine makers are racing to develop an effective jab against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, hoping that this time will be different. Some infectious disease experts warned that we may never have a COVID-19 vaccine even with novel platform technologies. Yet, with some leading candidates showing significant progress looming health crisis, a few optimists believe that hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready for roll-out by end of this year.

COVID-19 vaccine: Oxford, Moderna lead the race

Here’s a quick recap of some of the most advanced vaccine candidates against the SARS-CoV-2 virus:

Oxford’s adenovirus vaccine: In January, the Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group began the development of a vaccine candidate, a recombinant vaccine called AZD1222, formerly known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. The initial phase of testing involved 160 healthy volunteers between 18 to 55. The vaccine, which has now progressed to late-stage Phase 2/3 clinical trials, is made from a virus - a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees - that has been genetically changed to stop replicating it in humans. The researchers believe that the vaccine will make the body recognise and develop an immune response to the spike protein, thereby stopping the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering human cells and preventing infection. AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine in partnershio with Oxford University, said that it has begun mass production of the AZD1222 jab in factories.

Moderna’s mRNA vaccine: Moderna’s experimental coronavirus vaccine uses a synthetic lipid nanoparticle to carry mRNA templates, rather than using a weakened SARS-CoV-2 virus to transport the code. Moderna’s mRNA-1273, like most other candidates that are in the work, attempts to train the immune system to recognise the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ spike protein, which the virus uses to bind to and enter host cells. The mRNA-1273 vaccine, which is currently in crucial phase 2 trials, entered into human trials just 66 days after the novel coronavirus was first sequenced. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine displays a potential for nucleotide-based vaccines.

BioNTech and Pfizer, Novavax, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are among those leading the fight against coornavirus.

COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials (table)

Developmental status

Moderna and NIAID
mRNA vaccine
Phase 2

BioNTech and Pfizer
mRNA vaccine
Phase 1/2

Inovio Pharmaceuticals
DNA vaccine
Phase 1

University of Oxford and AstraZeneca
Adenovirus vaccine
Phase 2b/3

CanSino Biologics
Adenovirus vaccine
Phase 2

Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and Sinopharm
Inactivated virus
Phase 1/2

Beijing Institute of Biological Products and Sinopharm
Inactivated virus
Phase 1/2

Inactivated virus, plus adjuvant
Phase 1/2

Institute of Medical Biology and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences
Inactivated virus
Phase 1

Protein subunit
Phase 1/2

For instance, drug giants Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline are joining forces and technologies for a protein subunit approach. The companies teamed up to develop an adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine. Under the deal, Sanofi will contribute its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology. GSK will contribute its proven pandemic adjuvant technology to trigger a strong immune response. Their candidate vaccine is expected to enter clinical trials later this year. If the trials are successful, the companies aim to complete the development required for availability by the second half of 2021.

Despite progress, challenges remain

With preliminary preclinical and phase 1 data showing promising results, experts hope that we might have a vaccine for COVID-19 by the end of this year. However, some experts warned that we may never have a vaccine for coronavirus and will have to learn to live with the virus. It may be noted that the US food and Drug Administration only approved a first vaccine against Ebola virus disease - 45 years after the deadly was discovered, said a report published in the journal The Lancet. Despite years of research and huge investments, vaccinologists have made a little progress with HIV and syncytial virus.

That said, we would have to wait and see how things work out even as we all wait with a bated breath for a vaccine to defeat this dreaded virus.

The views expressed by the author are personal and do not in any way represent those of Times Network.

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