Scientists at MIGAL Research Institute in Israel expect to start producing a Covid-19 vaccine in the next eight-ten weeks, based on their avian coronavirus Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) vaccine.
The team developed the IBV vaccine after four years of research, funded by the country’s Ministry of Science & Technology and conducted in alliance with the Ministry of Agriculture.
IBV is a disease affecting poultry, and the new vaccine was found to be effective in pre-clinical trials at the Volcani Institute.
The researchers discovered a potential Covid-19 vaccine candidate as a by-product of the IBV vaccine. They made genetic alterations to adapt the IBV vaccine to the human strain of the novel coronavirus.
MIGAL’s Corona- New subunit vaccine Development Program
MIGAL initiated its Corona-vaccine development program four years ago with $4 million funding by the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture. As part of the project, MIGAL researchers developed a new sub-unit vaccine for oral delivery of Corona S1 and N-immune potent antigens. In addition, the team developed a commercial GMP standardized production method, including fermentation and protein collection. Proof-of-concept was achieved using an Avian coronavirus sequence for vaccination of chickens against the Avian Infectious Bronchitis (IBV) virus.
The main achievements of the program included:
- Definition of specific structural motifs of the corona S and N proteins, sufficient for induction of effective immune response.
- Development of three chimeric proteins for carrying three distinct structural domains, with enhanced mucosal activity for mucosal vaccination.
- Development of an E. coli-based protein expression system which produces and secretes the chimeric proteins to the growth media.
- Proof-of-concept for safety, specific antibody induction, activation of cellular immune response, and protection against challenge, was performed in two medium-scale animal studies, in chicken models and Avian corona H120 IBV.
- Development of fermentation media and process for protein production, following pharma regulations and GMP standards.
MIGAL is currently in the process of adjusting the genetic system to enable production of specific polypeptides of the recently-published Corona sequence. It has characterized the structural domains and is in the process of developing relevant chimeric proteins. Using its already-developed fermentation process, Migal believes that its proposed oral (mucosal) vaccination technology can be ready for testing recently.
MIGAL’s proposed COVID 19 vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis. In an In-Vivo study, it was demonstrated that the oral vaccination induces high levels of specific anti-IBV antibodies. Moreover, vaccinated birds were protected against challenge with a live virulent IBV strain, as demonstrated by rapid clearance of the virus.
Advantages of COVID-19 Subunit vaccine
- Cannot cause disease state
- Safe to use in immune suppressed patients
- Less chances of side-effects
- Oral administration
- Stimulation of cytotoxic T cells
- Relatively fast adaptation to new variant