Here’s what you need to know about WHO’s top 8 COVID-19 vaccine candidates

Here’s what you need to know about WHO’s top 8 COVID-19 vaccine candidates

New Delhi: The hunt for a cure for the novel coronavirus is underway as researchers work at whirlwind speed to find safe vaccines and medicines against the dreaded virus. More than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in various stages of development with a handful of them already in early human trials - three coronavirus vaccines in phase 2 clinical trials.
Xu Qiang, head of the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, said that three coronavirus vaccines have entered phase 2 clinical trials in China. Developing a safe, effective vaccine is a long, complex process, which takes 10-15 years and a billion dollars to make. Various health experts have warned that a COVID-19 vaccine will not be ready for widespread use until next year. Yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) had revealed that work on 7-8 ‘top’ COVID-19 vaccines is being accelerated. Five months into the global pandemic, here’s what we know about the top 8 contenders for COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines that are leading the race

Moderna/NIAID: Moderna is clearly a top contender in the COVID-19 vaccine race. The American biotechnology company has made significant progress with its preventative experimental COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-127, in the recent week, gaining the US FDA approval for phase 2 clinical trials. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 virus also received FDA ‘fast-track’ designation, essentially speeding up the regulatory process. The phase 2 trial involving 600 healthy volunteers will assess the safety and immunogenicity of two vaccinations of mRNA-127.
CanSino Biological Inc/Beijing Institute of Biotechnology: China’s CanSino Bio’s  Adenovirus Type 5 Vector (Ad5-nCoV) has been listed as a top contender by the WHO. Ad5-nCoV was the first candidate vaccine against CVOID-19 to begin conducting Phase II human clinical trials. CanSino Bio’s Ad5-nCoV, which was developed using technology from both China and Canada, was also given the green light by Health Canada for clinical trials. The vaccine was was co-developed using a genetically engineered replication-defective adenovirus type 5 vector to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is grown using living cells.
University of Oxford: ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, jointly developed by Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca, has shown promising results in rhesus macaque monkeys and without any side effects. The vaccine, which is currently undergoing human trial, appeared to prevent damage to the lungs and other organs severely affected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in animals.
Sinovac Biotech: Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech’s inactivated COVID-19 vaccine candidate PiCoVacc was successfully tested in rhesus macaques. The vaccine could help protect the animals from coronavirus by triggering an immune response to produce antibodies against the virus. Sinovac is accelerating the progress of their research to help combat the global fight against COVID-19.
Wuhan Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm: The inactivated vaccine developed by Wuhan Institute of Biological Products under the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences is another Chinese COVID-19 vaccine that has entered the phase 2 clinical trials on the WHO list. Sinopharm said the vaccine, which started its clinical trial on April 12, has shown good safety so far and vaccine receivers are under observation.
Beijing Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm: Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm made substantial progress in vaccine race for COVID19 as its second inactivated vaccine won clinical trial approval from the National Medical Products Administration. The vaccine targetting the contagion is co-developed by a unit under CNBG-Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Inactivated vaccines use non-living viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens that cannot cause disease. Hence, these vaccines need repeated doses to help strengthen and lengthen the immune response to the vaccine.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals: Inovio Pharmaceuticals, a leader in coronavirus DNA vaccine development, is expediting the development of its vaccine ‘INO-4800’ created to protect against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The biotech firm plans to make 1 million doses by the end of 2020. Inovio’s DNA vaccine ‘INO-4800’ is currently being tested in the US through a phase 1 clinical trial, which involves 40 healthy volunteers. It will assess the vaccine’s safety and its ability to trigger an immune response in the body. The vaccine (a DNA plasmid vaccine with electroporation), if proved safe, could advance to phase II and phase III clinical trials later this year. Inovio has partnered with a team of manufacturers, including Richter-Helm, Ology Biosciences, and VGXI, Inc, to produce large-scale quantities of its experimental DNA vaccine.
Pfizer and BioNTech: Pfizer and BioNTech have dosed the first participants in the US in phase 1/2 clinical trial for the BNT162 vaccine program to prevent novel coronavirus infection. BNT162 vaccine is based upon mRNA and is being jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The trial is part of a global development program that includes four vaccine candidates - each of which represents a different combination of mRNA format and target antigen. The trial, which includes 360 healthy subjects in two cohorts (18-55 and 65-85 years of age), will determine the safety, immunogenicity and optimal dose level of four mRNA vaccine candidates, and is to be evaluated in a single, continuous study, said a press release.
The COVID-19 outbreak has now claimed at least 311,959 people and infected 4,647,980 people in 196 countries and territories.

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