This week there was another encouraging report in the race to develop a vaccine to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Novavax, a small company that recently made news as a recipient of $1.6 billion by the White House “Operation Warp Speed”, just released its preliminary results on an early trial of their vaccine candidate. In this study, 130 volunteers were given one of two doses of the vaccine, and each group responded with the expected immune response – production of “virus-neutralizing” antibodies (or antibodies that attack the part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that prevent it from causing further infection) at the target level. Furthermore, side effects were limited – mild or moderate symptoms which resolved within a few days.
What makes this particular vaccine different is that it contains a viral protein that elicits an immune response unlike other leading vaccines to date that use viral genetic material (such as the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech recently profiled). This type of protein-based vaccine may have an additional advantage, as vaccines of this type have been in use for much longer and have a proven successful track record for diseases such as hepatitis B and shingles.
Still much more data will be required to show that this vaccine is safe and effective. Novavax enters into its own Stage III trials this fall on a larger number of subjects. If successful, Novavax has already signed a contract with Serum Institute of India for mass production of its vaccine, with a goal of having up to 100 million doses available by early 2021.
Please click here to read the Novavax press release.