Researchers at the Jefferson Vaccine Center at Philadelphia is working on their new vaccine candidate for COVID-19, developed using killed rabies virus vaccine as a carrier for the spike protein antigen seen in the SARS-CoV-2.
The vaccine named COROVAX uses a small portion containing the spike protein of the nCoV that is most likely to generate a protective immune response. Together with the carrier vaccine, the new vaccine would develop antibodies against both rabies and the coronavirus spike protein.
“Our vaccine candidate, CORAVAX is made from part of the current coronavirus and that is combined with another proven vaccine that serves as a carrier of sorts,” says Matthias Schnell, PhD, Director of the Jefferson Vaccine Center.
The researchers anticipate that rabies vaccine being a previously tested and commonly available vaccine around the globe could help leverage the efficacy and safety record of COROVAX apart from facilitating its production meeting the unprecedented need for the vaccine.
“We need a vaccine that is not only safe and effective but also one that can be made to scale up and in a way that can get to potentially all the world’s population. CORAVAX has that potential,” says Mark Tykocinski, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs of Thomas Jefferson University.
Since the rabies vaccine can be produced in a shelf-stable, dehydrated form, it would not require deep freezer storage. That would make it easier to reconstitute in any location making way to a relatively low-cost production, which is important for a vaccine that may need to be available to billions, avers the team.
The team has begun testing the vaccine in animal models and hopes to soon begin phase 1 clinical trials in humans.
The team’s vaccine previously developed for other similar coronaviruses that caused the 2003 SARS and the 2012 MERS epidemics was proven safe and effective in animal models of those diseases, said the researchers.