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 trips to vaccination sites, there are researchers focused on what’s 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, previously only given to monkeys and mice, uses a nanoparticle to trigger neutralizing antibodies. Known as the pan-coronavirus vaccine, it blocks 100 percent of COVID-19 infections in monkeys and outperforms other current vaccine platforms in tests.
“We started this work last spring with the understanding that, as with all viruses, mutations would occur in the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19,” said Dr. Barton F. Haynes, director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI), told nature.
The idea behind the new vaccine is to take advantage of a vulnerability in coronavirus, a receptor binding domain on the spike that connects viruses to receptors in human cells. While this binding site allows the coronavirus to enter a body and cause infection, it can also be targeted for antibodies.
“This approach not only provided protection against SARS-CoV-2, but the antibodies induced by the vaccine neutralized worrisome variants that originated in the UK, South Africa and Brazil,” said Haynes. “And the antibodies that were induced reacted with quite a large number of coronaviruses.”
Haynes believes what they learned in making the vaccine could help defend themselves against future disease events.
“There have been three coronavirus epidemics in the last 20 years. There is therefore a need to develop effective vaccines that can fight these pathogens before the next pandemic. This work provides a platform that can prevent, quickly alleviate or eradicate a pandemic. “
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