U.Va.-Va. Tech researchers develop promising coronavirus vaccines
In early studies, one vaccine proves effective against pig virus
Athletic rivals Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia are working together on two new coronavirus vaccines, and their research has shown early promise in protecting people from existing and future variants of COVID-19, according to the universities.
Created by U.Va. Health Professor Steven L. Zeichner and Virginia Tech Distinguished Professor X.J. Meng, one vaccine targets a pig coronavirus that killed nearly 10% of U.S. pigs during a recent outbreak, and the other targets COVID-19. The pig vaccine prevented test pigs from becoming sick with the porcine coronavirus. The researchers found the inoculated pigs’ immune systems defended them from developing severe symptoms, and the scientists say it is reasonable to think that the COVID vaccine could do the same in humans, with further testing.
Zeichner has developed a new platform that targets specific DNA to instruct the immune system how to attack a virus, and he says this system could lead one day to a universal vaccine for coronaviruses, including some that could cause pandemics or that spread the common cold. It also would provide a way to produce lower-cost vaccines, Zeichner said. The scientists published their findings online, and they are now under peer review.
“Our new platform offers a new route to rapidly produce vaccines at very low cost that can be manufactured in existing facilities around the world, which should be particularly helpful for pandemic response,” Zeichner said in a statement.
According to the universities, additional testing — including human trials — would be necessary before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could approve the COVID vaccine, but the scientists are pleased by the early results.
“Such a vaccine, if successful, would be of significant value against variant virus strains,” Meng said in a statement.