Oxford University announces partnership to develop coronavirus vaccine
Researchers at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute announced the signing of an agreement with Italian biomedical manufacturing company, Advent Srl to produce the first batch of novel coronavirus vaccine to provide immunity from infection.
The Jenner Institute, affiliated with the university’s Nuffield Department of Medicine and in collaboration with The Pirbright Institute, focuses on vaccine research and development.
The team at Jenner Institute is ready to initiate clinical trials for the vaccine that will be manufactured through this partnership.
NDM’S Jenner Institute to begin novel coronavirus vaccine research | University of Oxford https://t.co/aSjtoP5kc0
— NDM Oxford (@NDMOxford) February 10, 2020
According to the institute, the ‘seed stock’ for the vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is currently being manufactured at the University’s Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility in Headington. Upon completion, Advent Srl will produce 1000 doses of the vaccine for the first stage of clinical trials.
The research team at the institute is led by Professor Sarah Gilbert, whose research focuses on immunology. She has also been involved in projects related to MERS, Zika, Nipah virus and Lassa fever.
The vaccines are produced using a safe version of an adenovirus; another virus that can cause common cold-like illness.
According to Gilbert, novel pathogens such as nCoV-19 require rapid vaccine development. By using technology that is known to work well for another coronavirus vaccine, the team was able to reduce the time taken to prepare for clinical trials.
In addition, the team’s partnership with Advent Srl will expedite the process: Advent Srl is a subsidiary of IRBM, an Italian company specialising in molecular biotechnology, biomedical sciences, and organic chemistry.
The company is no stranger to vaccine development, having previously developed a variety of vaccines, including the Italian anti-Ebola vaccine.
The team at the Jenner Institute has been conducting research on a vaccine candidate for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The first clinical trial of the vaccine proved promising, as it displayed a strong immune response against MERS after immunisation with a single dose.
Other researchers at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Professor Dave Stuart and Yvonne Jones have been collaborating with researchers in China to decode key structures related to SARS-CoV-2 at an atomic level.
This method is helping the team to understand the structure of the SARS-CoV-2’s Spike protein, which will help map antibodies to the virus.
The Spike protein structure is also the focus of Professor Alain Townsend’s, an immunologist at the institute’s research. Townsend aims to develop a vaccine based on this protein.
Genetic codes for making the coronavirus Spike protein has been added to allow for the production of antibodies, which stops infections by binding with viruses.