TOH-Vac1 New Vaccine Claimed to be Effective Against Variants of COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, scientists are racing against time to develop new vaccines. One of them is a vaccine developed and produced at The Ottawa Hospital, Canada which is claimed to have mercy against COVID-19.

Quoted from Eurekalert, in contrast to the COVID-19 vaccine currently approved by the World Health Organization WHO, this new vaccine, called TOH-Vac1, replicates in the body's cells.

New results published in the Molecular Therapy report show that a single dose of TOH-Vac1 produces a robust multi-pronged immune response in mice and monkeys. This vaccine is also said to be safe, inexpensive, easy to manufacture, store, and transport, and can be programmed to protect against multiple variants.

"We need to take advantage of every tool at our disposal to control this pandemic, including new vaccines with unique advantages," said Dr. Carolina Ilkow, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, and one of the study's senior authors.

Based on smallpox vaccine

TOH-Vac1 is based on a strain of the vaccinia virus that was safely used to vaccinate millions of people against smallpox in the 1950s. This strain has been genetically engineered to produce the SARS-CoV2 spike protein.

"Because it is based on a replicating virus, this vaccine produces a very strong immune response, which includes T cells as well as antibodies," explains Dr. John Bell, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, and professor at the University of Ottawa.

"We think this is important for the development of a broader and longer-lasting immune response. It also makes vaccines relatively easy to manufacture," he added.

Developed a team of experts in various fields

The idea to develop the TOH-Vac1 came from a group of postdoctoral colleagues, graduate students and research technicians who worked with Dr. Bell and Dr. Ilkow at the Ottawa Hospital's Cancer Centre.

Teams usually focus on developing viruses to fight cancer. But when the pandemic hit, they realized they could quickly adapt their research to develop a vaccine against COVID-19.

They also know that they can manufacture vaccines in large quantities at The Ottawa Hospital's Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre, the only facility of its kind in the country.

"When a pandemic hits, everyone wants to help. This is why we got into science," said postdoctoral fellow Dr. Stephen Boulton.

"Our team grew to include many researchers with different areas of expertise, and this helped us develop a very powerful vaccine. This is a great collaboration," he said.

Human clinical trials needed

This research was initially funded through the Fast Grant in partnership with the Thistledown Foundation and a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund grant from The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

The team then received additional funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity. The Canada Foundation for Innovation also provides infrastructure support for biomanufacturing.

As these funds have run out, the team hopes the government or other partners will step up and help move this vaccine research into human clinical trials.

"We are very fortunate that we have good access to a safe and effective vaccine in Canada. But this pandemic is not over. We need to vaccinate the whole world, and we need to be prepared to produce vaccines against new variants, if needed," said Dr. Bells.

The research team did not patent their vaccine and are prepared to manufacture it for a fee, or provide samples so that others can produce it. They noted that apart from conferring immunity against COVID-19, TOH-Vac1 would also confer immunity against smallpox.

Researchers at the Institut du Cancer de Montréal, the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute, the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute and the University of Alberta also contributed to the study.

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