Pittsburgh, PA – There are several COVID-19 vaccines in human clinical trials right now, and more than 100 worldwide in development. Anthony Fauci, MD, of The National Institutes of Health, says providers will need a number of viable options to reproduce enough vaccine to meet the demand. Scientists in Pittsburgh have developed a novel vaccine that they say is now ready for human trials.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have a history of fighting deadly diseases. It’s here that Jonas Salk developed the vaccine that cured polio. Now, researchers are working on a new way to stop COVID-19 in its tracks.
“So, for this vaccine, we are going to deliver the antigen with a novel technology that’s referred to as a dissolvable microneedle array,” explained Louis Falo, Jr. MD, PhD, professor, and Chair of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The drug would be administered to patients on a small patch the size of a postage stamp. It will be similar to putting on a bandaid with tiny, dissolvable needles.
Falo elaborated, “The microneedle array is simply applied to the skin topically, pressed into place very shortly, and then taken off and thrown away.”
Andrea Gambotto, MD, had previous experience with two epidemics, SARS in 2003, and MERS in 2014. Both viruses are related to this novel coronavirus. So, scientists said they already knew to look for a particular protein called a spike protein.
Andrea Gambotto, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh stated, “By inducing an antibody response in this protein, you block the entry of the virus into the cell.”
The vaccine would work in the same way as some flu shots, building the body’s immunity by inserting lab-made pieces of the virus. It has been successfully tested in mice.
“We found that the animal responded to the vaccine, mounting an immune response,” disclosed Gambotto.
Now scientists want to know if this microneedle array will do the same in humans.
The researchers have had discussions with the FDA regarding drug approval before they can begin human trials. They’ve called the vaccine “PITT-CO-VACC," the Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine. So far, U.S. drug companies Pfizer, Inovio, and Moderna have conducted human tests to determine the safety of their vaccines. In the U.K., the University of Oxford is testing a vaccine on humans.