Israeli coronavirus vaccine developers target summer human trials

Vaccine researchers at MigVax secured a $12 million funding boost on Wednesday, led by investment platform OurCrowd

MIGAL researchers working vigorously to find a new coronavirus vaccine (photo credit: LIOR JOURNO)
MIGAL researchers working vigorously to find a new coronavirus vaccine
(photo credit: LIOR JOURNO)
Scientists racing toward a vaccine against COVID-19 at Israel's MigVax will commence a safety and efficacy assessment in rodents in May prior to initiating human trials during the summer months, a senior company official said on Wednesday.
Kiryat Shemona-based MigVax, an affiliate of the Migal Galilee Research Institute, is working to adapt a vaccine developed over the past four years against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) - a coronavirus strain causing bronchial disease in poultry - for human use.
Phase 1/2 clinical trials in humans will start during the summer of 2020 and last six to nine months, senior Migvax researcher and director Prof. Itamar Shalit told a webinar hosted by Jerusalem-based crowdfunding investment platform OurCrowd.
"People think the winner takes it all. We are going to need much more than one vaccine. Manufacturing the needed quantity for all the world will require different types of vaccines," said Shalit, who specializes in infectious diseases.
MigVax researchers aim to adapt the vaccine for the avian coronavirus into a new oral subunit human vaccine against COVID-19, based on their great genetic similarity and identical infection mechanism. Except for some required genetic adjustments, researchers say the same vaccination concepts should apply in humans.
"It is very important to understand that to suppress coronavirus and go back to our normal life, we have to invest in a vaccine that will be effective," Shalit said. "Once we have an effective vaccine, that will be the time to exit this pandemic situation and return to normal life."
The MigVax vaccine uses a chimeric protein that presents viral proteins to the immune system via the oropharynx (middle of the throat). Based on the IBV vaccine, the approach generates three kinds of immunal response: mucosal immunity; blood-based immunity; and cell-mediated immunity.
Made using bacterial fermentation, MigVax says it will be possible to quickly and cost-effectively manufacture millions of doses of the potential vaccine. As the vaccine does not include the virus itself, researchers say it will be safe to use in immune-suppressed recipients, and has fewer chances of side effects.
"Following the clinical trials, MigVax will evaluate the next steps with the regulatory authorities," said Shalit. "Billions of doses of the vaccine will be required worldwide to adequately address the coronavirus epidemic. Multiple sources of vaccines and manufacturing will be necessary."
After previously announcing plans to seek partners to assist the completion and commercialization of the vaccine, MigVax announced on Wednesday that it had secured a $12 million investment to accelerate its vaccine development efforts, led by OurCrowd.
"We are humbled by the opportunity to invest in this company, which means so much to so many people," said OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved. "The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is about saving countless lives, and we are grateful to be able to support this important effort."