New Covid-19 vaccine in development
Just over a year on from the first lockdown in the UK and over 451 million people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination globally. However, mutations to the virus could leave vaccinated populations vulnerable once again. Thanks to a collaboration between cancer researchers and virologists at the University of Nottingham, a new vaccine is in the works which potentially has greater chances of success against a mutating virus.
"When Covid-19 first arrived, my first thought was to let the people with expertise in infectious disease vaccines get on with it,” said Professor Lindy Durrant, a specialist in Immunotherapy at the University of Nottingham, “Then I thought I know a lot about T-cells and most people aren’t concentrating on this aspect so it might be worth a conversation. And when I spoke to Professor Jonathan Ball and Janet Daly here at the university they got very excited! There was a lot of focus on the spike protein in the early vaccines so we thought that this could be a good avenue for us to explore.”
The current vaccines in use around the world work by targeting the spike protein of the virus which latches on to the human cells. Mutations to the spike protein have already been found in the new variants that have spread across the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
The human immune system uses two approaches to fight a virus; one is antibodies which attach themselves to the spike protein and bring in other cells to kill the virus, the other is ‘T-cells’ which recognise cells infected with a virus and then kill these cells.
By developing a vaccine which stimulates T-cells as well as antibodies, the chances of success could be increased, even against a mutating virus.
“By targeting both the spike protein and nucleocapsid protein, which triggers a strong T-cell response, we effectively double the chances we have to defeat the virus. In animal studies we are getting good, if not better, antibody levels than other vaccines, and increased T-cell responses. We’re due to start early-stage clinical trials this spring and hope that we see more positive results. I thank everyone who has supported our research financially. It would be fantastic for us to contribute to the global vaccine response and know that our work is helping to save lives. ”
Ambition issue two is also available as a PDF.