World #1 – Israeli scientists say ‘weeks away’ from coronavirus vaccine

An Israeli scientist works at a laboratory at the MIGAL Research Institute in Kiryat Shmona in the upper Galilee in northern Israel.

The scientists at an independent research institute – the Galilee Research Institute, known as MIGAL – are adapting a vaccine it developed against the avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus, or IBV, to work for the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“Congratulations to MIGAL on this exciting breakthrough. I am confident that there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,” said Ofir Akunis, Israel’s minister of science and technology.

…MIGAL’s vaccine for IBV, a bronchial illness that affects poultry, has already been proven in preclinical trials conducted at Israel’s Veterinary Institute, according to the news outlet.

“Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotech group chief.

“The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus,” he added.

Endocytosis is the process in which substances are brought into cells by surrounding the material with membranes that form vesicles containing the ingested material.

The researchers discovered that the poultry coronavirus is very similar genetically to the human one — and that it uses the same infection method, Katz said.

“All we need to do is adjust the system to the new sequence,” he said. “We are in the middle of this process, and hopefully in a few weeks we will have the vaccine in our hands. Yes, in a few weeks, if it all works, we would have a vaccine to prevent coronavirus.”

The oral vaccine will have to go through a regulatory process, including clinical trials, he noted.

MIGAL CEO David Zigdon said the vaccine could “achieve safety approval in 90 days,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

“Given the urgent global need for a human coronavirus vaccine, we are doing everything we can to accelerate development,” he added.

Akunis said he has instructed his ministry’s director-general to speed up all approval processes.

“We are currently in intensive discussions with potential partners that can help accelerate the in-human trials phase and expedite completion of final-product development and regulatory activities,” he said.

In the US, Massachusetts-based drugmaker Moderna has sent its first batch of an experimental vaccine – called mRNA-1273 — to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for testing just six weeks after it began working on it, according to CNN.

The biotech firm in Cambridge said the first vials of the experimental product would be used in a planned Phase 1 study, which involves testing on a small number of healthy people.

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told CNN that a clinical trial could start by the end of April, but the process of testing and regulatory approvals would last at least a year.

He said this week that the approval process could be expedited after a successful Phase 1 trial, but that even when proceeding at breakneck speed, a vaccine would not be ready for use for at least a year or 18 months.

In Texas, meanwhile, scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who worked on a vaccine for SARS several years ago are working on immunization against the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

“We know that virus is 80 percent similar to the current SARS-2 virus that causes COVID-19, but at the same time, we’re also engineering a potentially new vaccine that will be much more specific against the COVID-19,” Dr. Maria Bottazzi of the Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor told ABC 13.

Dr. Kathryn Stephenson, a Harvard Medical school professor and head of of the clinical trials unit for the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told the Boston Globe that vaccines must undergo extensive testing with progressively larger groups of people.

“You can make a vaccine, but you’re not going to put that into humans until you’re pretty confident in your product,” said Stephenson, whose center also is working on a coronavirus vaccine.

Other companies rushing to develop a vaccine include Inovio (U.S.), GlaxoSmithKline (UK), Sanofi (France) and Johnson & Johnson (U.S.).

Meanwhile, Israeli company BATM said Thursday it has developed a quick diagnostic kit to test for the coronavirus — and that production was underway at a facility in Rome owned by Adaltis, which produces medical testing devices, the Times of Israel reported.

The firm said the kit’s ability to successfully screen those carrying the virus had been verified by several labs and hospitals, adding that the test met criteria set out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Published at NYPost .com on Feb. 28, 2020. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from New York Post.


NOTE: Before answering the following questions, read the info under “Background” and watch the video under “Resources” below.

1. List the who, what, where and when of the news report.

2. What is the time frame for the availability of the coronavirus vaccine being developed by the Galilee Research Institute (MIGAL) in Israel?

3. How has MIGAL developed a potential vaccine so quickly? Be specific.

4. What is the Israeli government doing to assist MIGAL in making the vaccine available as quickly as possible?

5. a) What other hopeful news is there regarding vaccine development?
b) What is important to note about U.S. government approval for these vaccines (per Dr. Fauci and Dr. Katryn Stephenson)?

6. What news is there regarding developing a quicker way to diagnose the virus?

7. How does this news report encourage you?

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