New Covid-19 vaccine from Texas scientists is cheaper, easier to make and patent-free | Texas

A new Covid-19 vaccine is being developed by scientists in Texas using a decades-old conventional method that will make production and distribution cheaper and more accessible for countries hardest hit by the pandemic and where new variants are likely to originate due to low inoculation rates.

The team, led by Drs. Peter Hotez and Maria Bottazzi from the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine, has been developing prototype vaccines against Sars and Mers since 2011, which they rebuilt to create the new Covid vaccine, dubbed Corbevax. , or “the world’s Covid-19 vaccine”.

Although more than 60 other vaccines are being developed using the same technology, Bottazzi said their vaccine is unique because they have no plans to patent it, allowing anyone with the ability to replicate it.

“Almost anyone can make hepatitis B vaccines, or has the ability to make microbial proteins like bacteria or yeast, can replicate what we’re doing,” Bottazzi said.

Patent wars over mRNA vaccines have escalated recently. Moderna and the National Institutes of Health are at odds over who should get credit for specific discoveries that led to a Covid-19 vaccine that has been delivered to more than 73 million Americans. If Moderna is found to have infringed the federal government’s patent, it could be forced to pay more than $1 billion.

At the same time, campaigners have called on Pfizer and Moderna to share technology and know-how to produce their vaccines, including battling before the World Trade Organization. Low-income countries, which have few vaccine research and production facilities, have only vaccinated one in nine people, according to the World Health Organization. The United States has fully vaccinated 67% of the population and provided a third dose of vaccine to more than a third.

Data from Corbevax’s clinical trials have yet to be released due to resource constraints, but Texas Children’s Hospital said the vaccine was more than 90% effective against the original strain of Covid-19 and more than 80% against the Delta variant. The efficacy of the vaccine against the Omicron variant is currently being tested.

The process of creating the vaccine involves the use of yeast – the same method by which hepatitis B vaccines are produced.

The Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines currently licensed in the United States use different technologies, or vaccine “platforms.” Moderna and Pfizer use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. This platform introduces the immune system to Covid-19 by providing instructions on how to produce its most recognizable feature, the spike proteins that coat its surface. This helps the immune system recognize and fight the virus later, if a person is exposed. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine introduces immune cells into the spike protein through an otherwise harmless cold virus, a technology called viral vector.

The Corbevax vaccine uses a platform called recombinant protein subunit technology, which places an actual piece of Covid-19 spike protein into yeast cells. The yeast cells then copy the vital protein and the protein is introduced into the immune system.

“We make the protein, directly and synthetically, in the lab using the yeast system,” Bottazzi explained. “We are asking the yeast to make a protein that looks like a protein made by the virus. Then we immunize the protein and the body then processes that protein and presents it to the immune system. Therefore, you are not asking your body to do any major manipulation of the coding.

Importantly, storage of the Corbevax vaccine requires only standard refrigeration, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage in transit.

Biological E, an Indian pharmaceutical company used to producing hepatitis B vaccines with whom Bottazzi’s team has a long-standing relationship, has already produced 150 million doses of the new Corbevax vaccine and will soon be able to produce 100. million doses each month.

After being overlooked by government organizations for funding, Bottazzi said, the developers behind Corbevax have relied on philanthropic donations to get them over the finish line. The Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development is an academic and scientific institution by nature, but Bottazzi said the development of Corbevax has forced them to stretch their resources in order to gain visibility as a strong candidate for Covid vaccine development.

“We teach ourselves to do work that allows regulation, that allows good quality, good reproduction, good record keeping…we imitate as if we were a small biotechnology or manufacturing entity,” said she declared. “Each technology has advantages and disadvantages. No one is claiming that one is the only super-duper solution. All [vaccines] are part of the solution. But when you have such a serious situation in the world, you don’t choose one solution – you try to use all the solutions,” Bottazzi said.

Bottazzi said the reason she and her team did not patent the vaccine was because of her team’s shared humanitarian philosophy and commitment to collaboration with the wider scientific community.

“We want to do good in the world. It was the right thing to do and it’s what we morally had to do. We didn’t even blink. We didn’t ask ourselves ‘how can we take advantage of it?’ You see now that if more like us would have been more aware of how the world is so inequitable and how we could have helped so many places around the world right from the start without thinking ‘what the hell is this going to do? ‘bring?’, we might not even see these variants appear.

Bottazzi hopes his decision will inspire others to follow suit and make affordable and accessible vaccines against other diseases and viruses, like hookworm.

“We need to break these paradigms that it’s only driven by economic impact factors or economic return on investment. We have to look at the public health return.

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