【Vaccine Development】Oxford research team leading the world's COVID-19 vaccine development

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 ▲Based on the past research on MERS, the team set to design a "recombinant virus vaccine" to combat the current outbreak. (sources: Freepik)

In hope of finding solutions for the global pandemic, research institutes around the world have been ceaselessly on COVID-19 vaccine development. According to the New York Times article "In Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine, an Oxford Group Leaps Ahead," the research team of the University of Oxford has successfully finished trials in rhesus macaque monkeys and is now conducting small clinical safety trial. If tested safe and effective, the vaccine could be available by September of this year.

The research team leading by Professor Sarah Gilbert at the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute, who specializes in the study of MERS vaccine development, starts working on the development of COVID-19 vaccine after the genome sequence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) became available in mid-January. Based on the past research on MERS, the team set to design a “recombinant virus vaccine” to combat the current outbreak.

This kind of vaccine used recombinant DNA techniques to create a SARS-CoV-2 antigen and embedded it within a primate adenovirus vector. The recombinant virus vaccine contains less infectious virus which can stimulate the immune response in human body to create antibodies without causing harm to human body.

The Oxford research group mentioned that during the trial last month, the result showed that the six rhesus macaque monkeys inoculated with single doses of the Oxford vaccine remained healthy after being exposed to heavy quantities of coronavirus; nonetheless, the exposure had caused infection among other monkeys without vaccine in the lab.

The Oxford vaccine has started clinical trial on human at the end of April. The researchers noted that even though the experiment on rhesus macaque monkeys with similar genetic structure to human, showed positive results, it does not mean the vaccine will be fully effective on human body. Therefore, further trials and analysis need to be conducted before the vaccine being used on human.

Kirkpatrick D.D. (2020) In Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine, an Oxford Group Leaps Ahead. The New York Times. 27 April. Last updated 2 May. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/27/world/europe/coronavirus-vaccine-update-oxford.html

Lane, R. (2020) Sarah Gilbert: carving a path towards a COVID-19 vaccine. The Lancet, 395(10232), p1247. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30796-0 

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