Trials have begun in Australia for a world-first potential Covid-19 vaccine for mutant stains such as the deadly Delta variant.
An Australian biotech tech company is the first in the world to develop a potential nanocellular Covid-19 vaccine that’s expected to be more efficient against mutant strains and better suited for patients with compromised immune systems.
The unique drug developed by Sydney-based company EnGeneIC has shown a better immune response and 95 per cent efficacy in its preclinical animal studies.
The technology used for the drug was initially developed as a breakthrough cancer treatment but has been adjusted to work as a vaccine.
Phase 1 clinical trials in healthy humans have begun at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital to test the safety and appropriate dosage. Another trial is due to established in Sydney.
According to the company, the vaccine can be kept at room temperature, has a shelf life of more than three years and doesn’t have any added stabilisers or chemicals.
There is a focus on making the drugs suitable for patients with compromised immune systems — such as people with cancer, auto-immune diseases and other chronic diseases — who may not respond effectively to existing vaccines.
EnGeneIC co-chief Jennifer MacDiarmid said there was no vaccine to date that was directed towards immune-compromised people and they were excluded from other vaccine trials that wanted emergency approval.
“People with cancer, auto-immune diseases, chronic diseases, or even older individuals have a degree of immune-deficiency and are not likely to respond effectively to current vaccines,” she said.
“Our (cancer clinical) trials also show that our treatment is very safe since it does not harm healthy cells, and in fact it is groundbreaking in that it results in activation of healthy white blood cells (immune cells) in these vulnerable patients.”
The immunisation process works like a lock and key. Antibodies – being the key – latch onto spike proteins of the Covid-19 virus – or the lock – to protect a person’s immunity.
Spike proteins on each mutant strain change so “high affinity” antibodies that have more keys are better suited to properly stick to the virus protein and neutralise it.
If they don’t, the antibodies can break away from the virus, leaving it exposed and a person’s immune system less likely to fight it.
Dr MacDiarmid said “high affinity” antibodies were created from EnGeneIC’s vaccine more so than other approved Covid-19 vaccines.
“We’re very excited their (the people involved in the trial) antibodies do neutralise the mutants and are developing important memory cells and T-cells that recognise cells in our body that are infected already and kill those,” she said.
“There is a lot of Greek alphabet letters to go through. Covid isn’t going to go away in a hurry.”
Dr MacDiarmid told NCA NewsWire that fully vaccinated people could take the drug with other Covid-19 vaccines such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna.
To be fully vaccinated, two doses of the vaccine are needed.
Two people are participating in phase 1 of the clinical trial and more unvaccinated people are being sought to participate.
Dr MacDiarmid said the trials were self-funded with the assistance of investors after being knocked back by federal and state governments for funding.
Originally published as EnGeneIC: Potential new Covid-19 vax for mutant strains to be developed in Australia