At a time when 35 percent of eligible adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the U.S. government is offering free Uber and Lyft rides to vaccination sites, there are researchers who are focused on what comes next. A new vaccine developed by the Duke Human Vaccine Institute could help fight COVID-19 and its variants. It could also be the solution we need for future pandemics.
Introducing a New Type of Vaccine
The new vaccine, given solely to monkeys and mice thus far, uses a nanoparticle to trigger neutralizing antibodies. Called a pan-coronavirus vaccine, it’s blocked 100 percent of COVID-19 infections in monkeys while outperforming other current vaccine platforms in tests.
“We began this work last spring with the understanding that, like all viruses, mutations would occur in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19,” Barton F. Haynes, M.D., director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) told Nature.
The idea behind the new vaccine is that it exploits a weak spot in coronaviruses, a receptor-binding domain on the spike that links viruses to receptors in human cells. While that binding site allows the coronavirus to enter a body and cause infection, it can also be made a target for antibodies.
“This approach not only provided protection against SARS-CoV-2, but the antibodies induced by the vaccine also neutralized variants of concern that originated in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil,” said Haynes. “And the induced antibodies reacted with quite a large panel of coronaviruses.”
Haynes believes that what they’ve learned making the vaccine could help defend against future disease events.
“There have been three coronavirus epidemics in the past 20 years. So, there is a need to develop effective vaccines that can target these pathogens prior to the next pandemic. This work represents a platform that could prevent, rapidly temper, or extinguish a pandemic.”