Another promising COVID-19 vaccine is in the works. WGN medical reporter Dina Bair spoke with the vaccine developer about the progress.
WGN first spoke with the scientists at INOVIO when they came up with a vaccine candidate back in April. Now people have gotten that vaccine as part of their clinical trials with the goal of rolling out up to a billion doses by next year.
“And I really do truly hope general public can see that as a light at the end of the tunnel because I certainly know how frustrating and confusing and scary these times are,” Dr. Kate Broderick said.
While Broderick and her team were developing a vaccine to protect against COVID-19, her sister, a nurse, was diagnosed with the disease. She knows how critical it is to stop SARS-CoV-2.
“I really think there is some promising data coming out of the vaccines being tested,” Broderick said.
Originally designed by sequencing the virus samples out of china, scientists at INOVIO pharmaceuticals came up with a vaccine candidate. They first tested it on 40 people. It was safe. Then 100 volunteers got the shot.
“Specifically we’re also looking at people in what we call an elderly cohort so those above 65 years old and that’s really important because generally as you get older the way you respond to vaccines is less and less efficient,” Broderick said
And those are the same people more gravely impacted by a COVID-19 diagnosis. Some hope today as those who got the shot, then mingle in the community, constantly monitored for infection.
“So far we’ve had some really great responder rates that means the number of people showing really positive results against the vaccine so that’s really, really encouraging,” Broderick said
INOVIO is part of the government’s operation warp speed. Tasked with not only coming up with a vaccine but also beginning the manufacturing process to make sure if it works, it’s ready.
“By 2021 I think the public should feel fairly confident there are going to be vaccines available,” Broderick said. “We are all going very fast but we are going fast on the manufacturing side of things, we’re going fast on the logistical side of things. I just want to reiterate that there is not a single corner being cut on the safety side of things. All the normal safety tests for any vaccine under any circumstance are still being utilized here.”
And so far, the original vaccine candidate is holding up, despite recent studies showing some mutation of SARS-CoV-2 making it spread more easily.
“Our vaccine is still based on that first sample from china however the way that we designed our vaccine it’s really sort of got a lot of coverage so the mutations we’ve seen so far in the virus are still within the realm of our vaccine so we’re not concerned about mutation,” Broderick said.
WGN asked if the virus will mutate the way the flu does as communities move forward and start vaccinating people.
“We’re not seeing any evidence of that at the moment so that gives me comfort and I’m sure the whole scientific community, the case that we’re not going to see those levels of mutation that we do with the flu and with other viruses,” Broderick said.
And in the absence of an effective treatment, the vaccine is the best hope for beating back COVID-19 and getting back to a greater sense of normalcy.
“The dedications the hard work the determination from the team of scientists literally working day and night b/c we all know how critical this is,” Broderick said.
INOVIO is moving this summer into Phase 2/3 trials which means even more people getting the vaccine. They are looking for volunteers to test it. For more information visit clinicaltrials.gov and inovio.com.