As the property sector faces up to the prospect of further lockdowns and social distancing, let’s take a moment to consider the potential light at the end of the tunnel and take a look at the amazing work being done in the race to find a vaccine for Covid-19.
When will an effective vaccine be developed? Where and when will it be made widely available? These are questions that have a significant impact on the future recovery of the sector.
5 candidates in Phase III trials
Vaccine development can typically take 10 years or more, but less than 7 months since the Chinese authorities first shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus with the World, no fewer than 5 candidates are already undergoing the final stage of human clinical trials, with 26 vaccines in clinical trials and 139 in preclinical evaluation.
The UK, USA and China seem to be leading the field in terms of vaccine R&D and might expect to be the first to see widespread availability of a successful vaccine.
But, trials are trials and we still must wait and see which of the contenders will win final approval.
The five leading candidates at present are:
Jenner Institute of Oxford University & AstraZeneca
Oxford University’s Jenner Institute has teamed up with Cambridge-headquartered pharma giant, AstraZeneca, for the development and manufacture of their ChADOx1-S vaccine candidate. The vaccine is currently in Phase III trials in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
ChAdOx1 is a chimpanzee adenovirus vaccine vector. According to the Jenner Institute this is a harmless, weakened adenovirus that usually causes the common cold in chimpanzees. It has been genetically modified so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans. The team had already used ChAdOx1 vaccine technology to produce candidate vaccines against several pathogens including flu, Zika and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), another coronavirus. This previous experience has been significant in helping speed up the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Results of the Phase I/II trial were published in The Lancet and showed that the vaccine was safe and induced strong immune responses in terms of both a T cell response within 14 days of vaccination and an antibody response within 28 days. The phase III trials will help determine whether these immune responses can effectively protect against Covid-19 infection.
Should the trails be successful, the UK is set to be the first recipient of the vaccine. AstraZeneca has pledged to make 30 million doses available to the UK in September, with 100 million doses available by the end of the year. On Tuesday the UK government, who have already put £65.5 million into the development of the vaccine, penned an agreement with India-based Wockhardt to help accelerate manufacturing of the vaccine at its subsidiary, CP Pharmaceuticals, in North Wales.
AstraZeneca and the Jenner Institute will also work with global partners on international distribution, particularly working to make it available for low-income countries. The two partners have agreed to operate on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic. Serum Institute of India was given regulatory approval earlier this week to start Phase II/III trials of the vaccine in India and have the capacity to mass produce the vaccine when approved.
Moderna & the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Moderna in partnership with NIAID is working on an mRNA vaccine, called mRNA-1273. mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) directs the body’s cells to produce proteins, some of which can fight diseases. This is a brand-new approach for making vaccines. If successful, this would be the first mRNA vaccine to be approved for use.
The partners commenced a Phase III study on 27 July, just 6.5 months after the team initially created the sequence for mRNA-1273.
Published data from the Phase I trial showed that while participants given the vaccine made more neutralising antibodies than most patients who have recovered from Covid-19, a second injection was needed to produce a strong immune response. A two-shot regimen was therefore chosen for the Phase III COVE (Coronavirus Efficacy) trial.
On 28 July The New England Journal of Medicine published results of an earlier challenge study, where non-human primates were given the two-dose vaccination schedule and then, four weeks later, were exposed to high doses of SARS-CoV-2. The results stated that mRNA-1273 induced robust neutralizing antibodies and an increase in T-cell response and led to protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in the lungs and noses of non-human primates. While such challenge studies are not currently possible with humans given the lack of an effective treatment for Covid-19, these results seem promising, as trials enter the Phase III stage.
The company has signed agreements with Lonza in Switzerland and ROVI in Spain to mass produce the vaccine and to supply both the US and overseas markets in the event that the vaccine gains approval.
Sinopharm & China National Biotec Group
Sinopharm, a state-owned pharmaceutical company based in Beijing, with a subsidiary listed in Hong Kong, is developing two vaccines using particles of the coronavirus that have been inactivated so that they can no longer cause disease. In June the company in June announced that early trials had shown the vaccine to be safe and that it produced an immune response from a two-shot regimen.
Phase III trials were initially held up by fears that falling rates of infection in China would hamper the chance of getting a clear result. However, in July the Phase III trials were moved to the United Arab Emirates, where 15,000 participants will take part, trialling both strains of the vaccine. The trial is being carried out in alliance with the Abu Dhabi Government and Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company G42 Healthcare. Health workers from Abu Dhabi Health Services will manage the trial on the ground.
In late July, the Chairman of Sinopharm told state television network CCTV that he expected the vaccine to be ready for use by the end of the year.
China National Biotec Group (CNBG) has prepared production facilities in Wuhan and Beijing to ramp up large-scale production once the vaccine gains final approval. CNBG is aiming to produce 200 million doses a year, according to state news agency, Xinhua.
China-based vaccine developer Sinovac Biotech is working on an inactivated vaccine called CoronaVac. In June the company announced positive preliminary results of their Phase I/II clinical trials, which involved 143 volunteers in Phase I and 600 in Phase II. The results showed that the vaccine produced a good immune response and no severe adverse effects, paving the way for a larger Phase III trial.
Around 9000 healthcare professionals working in Brazil are being recruited for the Phase III trials which started in July in partnership with Instituto Butantan, a Brazilian vaccine producer.
Sinovac also carried out a pre-clinical challenge trial on rhesus macaques which according to Mr. Weidong Yin, Chairman, President, and CEO of Sinovac offered “safe and complete protection in rhesus macaques against SARS- CoV-2 strains,”
We must await the results of the Phase III trials to see if similar protection can be afforded to humans.
BioNTech & Pfizer
NASDAQ-listed BioNTech and global giant Pfizer are partnering to develop an mRNA-based vaccine called BNT162b2.
The BNT162 programme brings together BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology with Pfizer’s global vaccine development and manufacturing capabilities.
The partners had been evaluating at least four experimental vaccines. Following success in earlier trials, which produced antibody and T-cell immune responses, with no severe adverse effects, BNT162b2 was chosen for advancement to the Phase II/III trials.
The late-stage study, which began on 27 July, will include up to 30,000 participants in 120 clinical investigation sites around the world including Argentina, Brazil and Germany, plus 39 sites around the US. If the trial is successful, BioNTech and Pfizer expect to be ready to seek Emergency Use Authorisation or some form of regulatory approval as early as October 2020. If authorisation or approval is obtained, the companies aim to supply up to 100 million doses by the end of the year and approximately 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
Pfizer have announced deals to produce 30 million doses for the UK, 600 million doses for the US, 120 million doses for Japan and a further deal was signed this week with Canada for delivery of an unspecified number of doses in 2021.
These are the top 5 and there are 26 more not that far behind
Time will tell which if any of these companies will produce an effective vaccine. But with five candidates already in Phase III trials and earlier trials showing positive results, the light at the end of the tunnel perhaps gets a little brighter.