- Many scientific studies are going on for vaccine development against COVID-19. As per WHO, there are nearly 124 vaccine candidates at various stage of developments.
- The US has announced a vaccine development program, Operation Warp Speed, for extensive vaccine testing and to develop a vaccine by the end of 2020.
- Some experts believe that developing a vaccine in a short period is not possible, and it might take more than a year.
- UK-based AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford move the vaccine AZD1222 into Phase 2/3 trial. Novavax, Moderna, and INOVIO are conducting early-stage studies of their respective candidates.
Researchers across the globe are in the race against time for developing a vaccine to defend people from the COVID-19. With more than 5.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the pandemic has destroyed health systems and confined billions of people to their homes. All over the world healthcare companies are focused on developing a treatment/vaccine to ensure the world is free from this deadly virus soon.
Meanwhile, the US has proposed a development program, Operation Warp Speed, for massive COVID-19 vaccine testing to meet the year-end deadline of producing an effective vaccine. The operation anticipates having significant quantities of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine accessible in the US by January 2021.
Though many scientific developments are going on across the globe, several public health officials and healthcare players anticipate that it would perhaps take around a year or even more before the first vaccine is available. According to the latest record for COVID-19 vaccines provided by the WHO, there are 124 candidates at various stages of development with different technologies.
There are several types of therapies and vaccine under development for COVID-19 focused on anti-inflammatory and antiviral treatment, cell therapies, convalescent plasma, genetic materials (i.e. mRNA and DNA), monoclonal antibodies, protein vaccine and recombinant vector vaccine.
Let us focus on some of the latest developments of healthcare players who are engaged in the development of COVID-19 vaccine:
AstraZeneca and University of Oxford working collaboratively, commence Phase 2/3 clinical trial
Cambridge, UK-based global science-led biopharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca plc (NYSE: AZN) is engaged in the development and commercialisation of prescription medicines primarily in the cardiovascular, oncology, respiratory & immunology, and renal & metabolism therapeutic space.
On 22 May 2020, the University of Oxford disclosed that scientists had begun recruitment for the next clinical trial Phase of AstraZeneca-partnered COVID-19 vaccine AZD1222 (formerly known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19). The university has revealed that the vaccine work is progressing rapidly. This study is intended to test a new vaccine against coronavirus in healthy volunteers.
The vaccine is produced from ChAdOx1, a diminished version of adenovirus that triggers infections in chimpanzees, that has been genetically modified so that it cannot develop in human beings.
Scientists from the Oxford university disclosed that after receiving AZD1222, the human body could recognise and build an immune response against the Spike protein. The response would assist in stopping the coronavirus from entering human cells and hence prevent infection.
AstraZeneca has signed an agreement for providing minimum 400 million vaccines, and so far, it has secured production facility for 1 billion doses of vaccine. Notably, the Company would start the first supplies in September 2020.
Meanwhile, AZN revealed on 21 May that it had received the aid of over US$1 billion from the BARDA for the development, production, and delivery of the vaccine.
AZN ADR, trading on the NYSE, fell by 3.82% to close the day’s trade at US$53.11 on 26 May 2020.
Novavax Starts Phase 1/2 Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine
A clinical-stage biotechnology company, Novavax Inc (NASDAQ:NVAX) is engaged in manufacturing next-generation vaccines for severe infectious diseases. The Company has discovered a vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373 against the novel coronavirus, which is a stable prefusion protein manufactured by applying the proprietary nanoparticle-based technology of Novavax.
On 25 May 2020, Novavax disclosed that the Company had initiated Phase1/2 clinical trial for its vaccine candidate against COVID-19.
Phase 1/2 clinical study is being organised in two parts: Phase 1 and Phase 2. The Phase 1 section is a randomised, placebo-controlled, single-blinded clinical trial intended for assessing the immunogenicity as well as the safety of the vaccine. The study is enrolling nearly 130 healthy volunteers between 18 to 59 years at two Australian sites.
The preliminary safety and immunogenicity outcomes from the Phase 1 portion are predicted in July 2020. Moreover, the Company disclosed that Phase 2 portion of this trial is anticipated to be conducted in several nations, including the United States, and would evaluate immunity, safety including the reduction of COVID?19 disease in a broader age range. Phase 2 portion to commence quickly subsequent successful Phase 1 outcomes.
On 26 May 2020, NVAX was quoting 4.47% higher at US$48.17.
Moderna Reveals Positive Interim Phase 1 Data for its mRNA-1273 vaccine
Massachusetts-headquartered healthcare company Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA) is engaged in the advancement of messenger RNA (mRNA) for developing a new class of transformative medicines. The Company has developed an mRNA vaccine that uses parts of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genetic material to create an immune response from the human body.
On 18 May 2020, Moderna revealed positive interim clinical trial result for its vaccine candidate mRNA-1273, from the clinical trial Phase 1 that is conducted by the NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
All participants assessed across the dose cohorts of 25 µg and 100 µg and binding antibody levels at or exceeding levels observed in convalescent sera. The vaccine triggered neutralising antibody levels in all participants for the dose cohorts 25 µg and 100 µg, reaching or surpassing neutralising antibody normally observed in convalescent sera.
mRNA-1273 vaccine was found to be safe and well-tolerated and offered complete protection against viral replication in the mouse model.
Moderna notified that the Phase 3 trials are anticipated to commence in July 2020.
On 26 May 2020, shares of Moderna fell by 16.36% to close the day’s trade at US$57.71.
INOVIO's COVID-19 DNA Vaccine INO-4800 Demonstrates Robust Neutralising Antibody and T Cell Immune Responses in Preclinical Models
US-based biotechnology company INOVIO (NASDAQ:INO) is focused on rapidly bringing to market specifically designed DNA based medicines for protection as well as treatment of people from infectious diseases, cancer, and other HPV-associated diseases.
On 20 May 2020, INOVIO revealed about the publication of the preclinical trial IN0-4800 vaccine indicating strong neutralising antibody along with T cell immune responses against coronavirus.
INOVIO disclosed that the initial safety as well as immune responses information from Phase 1 clinical study anticipated in June. Moreover, a Phase 2/3 efficacy clinical study planned to commence in July/August, which is currently pending regulatory approval.
On 26 May 2020, INO stock closed the day’s trade at US$14.46 up by 2.7% from its previous close.
Merck and IAVI Collaborate to Develop Vaccine Against SARS-CoV-2
A global leader in infectious diseases and vaccines, Merck (NYSE:MRK) is engaged in developing medicines and vaccines for a range of challenging diseases to save and improve lives.
On 26 May 2020, Merck revealed that the Company would collaborate with IAVI, a non-profit research organisation, to develop an investigational vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 to be used for the preventing COVID-19. This vaccine candidate will be formed by applying the recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus technology.
Moreover, Merck disclosed that under the agreement, both the organisations would work together for advancing the development and global clinical evaluation of a vaccine candidate against coronavirus designed and engineered by scientists of IAVI. It is under preclinical development, and a clinical trial is projected to commence later in 2020. The Company disclosed that it would lead the regulatory filings across the globe.
Merck and IAVI will work together for developing a vaccine and make it available and affordable around the world if approved.
On 26 May 2020, MRK stock closed the day’s trade at US$77.26 up by 1.17% from its previous close.
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