A universal vaccine that would be effective against all COVID-19 variants could be available in a year, according to British scientists at the University of Nottingham.
According to a report published by Yahoo News on February 13, the scientists are working on a vaccine that would target the core of the virus rather than its spike protein.
Efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic was already facing challenges with the emergence of new variants. Some of the available vaccines are less effective against the new variants.
According to reports, existing vaccines like the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs target the spike protein of the virus, but their efficacy is expected to wane as this element of the virus mutates.
The scientists say available evidence indicated that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca do not protect as well against variants containing the “E484K” mutation, such as those circulating widely in southern Africa and Brazil.
They said the universal vaccines will also target proteins found in the core of coronavirus to protect against all current variants and theoretically provide greater longevity.
Yahoo News also reported that UK company Scancell, which specialises in developing cancer vaccines, and other companies in Europe and the US are already working on variant proof vaccines.
Scancell is targeting a protein in the core of the virus called the nucleocapsid or “N” protein, alongside the spike protein. Human trials of their vaccine will begin in the second half of this year, after positive results from testing the jab on mice.
Other biotech firms are working on similar jabs, including myNEO in Belgium, and Osivax in France. The latter has just completed a phase II clinical trial of a universal flu vaccine that also targets the N protein.
MyNeo, meanwhile, has used modelling to suggest which parts of the virus might remain stable longest, allowing them to maximise vaccine longevity.
Other researchers in the US suggest using a previously-developed Sars vaccine, or a vaccine with several different coronaviruses could stimulate broader protection.
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