MigVax: Israeli COVID-19 vaccine closer to trials

I think it is fair to say that a vast majority of human beings on planet Earth have one question in their minds: When will we have an actual vaccine?

A MigVax scientist is seen working on a potential vaccine candidate.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
A MigVax scientist is seen working on a potential vaccine candidate.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
HILLEL'S TECH CORNER: These past two months have proven to be quite an unpleasant experience for humankind. We all want to fully go back to our normal routines. As a collective, we’re miserable being sheltered in place, and cabin fever is hitting hard. We miss face-to-face contact with our loved ones. We’re desperate for more income. We want to go out, and take part in the recreational activities we previously took for granted. And I haven’t even mentioned the worst part: the virus itself and people losing loved ones.
Times are tough, and most forms of media aren’t doing much in terms of providing comfort. From TV to social networks and messaging platforms, we’re all being flooded with updates surrounding COVID-19. They mostly revolve around deaths, increases in confirmed cases, company downfalls, and the shortage of food and medical supplies. We take comfort when we hear heartwarming stories of humanity, all in an attempt to grab any form of hope we can find. 
Well, every dark cloud does have a silver lining. Out of nearly three million confirmed cases of coronavirus, 1.77 million are mild cases, and more than 807,050 people have recovered as of the time of my writing this. 
I think it is fair to say that a vast majority of human beings on planet Earth have one question in their minds: When will we have an actual vaccine?
Well, I have some good news.
We’re getting closer than ever to COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, and it is all thanks to MigVax, which recently secured a $12 million investment from OurCrowd to accelerate the path to clinical trials and bring Israel’s human coronavirus vaccine to market.
MigVax is an affiliate of the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute, which is pioneering the effort to develop Israel’s human vaccine against COVID-19. MIGAL just completed testing a new vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus, a coronavirus strain that causes bronchial disease affecting poultry. MigVax is using the methods learned from the existing vaccine to develop a new oral subunit human vaccine against COVID-19.
The MIGAL Galilee Research Institute is an internationally recognized and multi-disciplinary applied research institute that specializes in biotechnology and computer sciences, plant science, precision agriculture and environmental sciences as well as food, nutrition and health.
MIGAL is the largest regional R&D center of the Israeli Science and Technology Ministry based in Kiryat Shmona, with 310 employees including 90 PhDs and 190 researchers. MIGAL’s interdisciplinary vaccine development team has been collaborating for several years on other vaccine development projects, and is highly qualified to carry out this project.
MigVax is based in northern Israel, not far from the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute. MigVax was established as an Ltd by MIGAL, which granted MigVax an exclusive worldwide license to make, use and practice the vaccine technology for the development, manufacturing and commercialization of vaccines for viruses in humans, starting with COVID-19.
YOU’RE PROBABLY thinking that you’ve already heard of other companies developing their own vaccine for COVID-19, and in Israel as well. But there are a few distinguishing factors in the case of MigVax. Aside from the fact that it is based on a proven platform of in-vivo efficacy in preventing IBV infection in chickens, it is also an oral-based vaccine that offers three-pronged immunity, and significant advantages in manufacturing and cost.
While there are several types of other vaccines being tested that also do not use the virus itself, interim MigVax CEO David Zigdon and his team believe they are unique in that their vaccine is a mixture of three recombinant chimeric soluble proteins.
Their approach utilizes a chimeric protein that presents the viral proteins to the immune system via the  mouth and throat. The oral administration of the chimeric protein combination generates three kinds of immunological response activating mucosal, systemic and cell-mediated immunity against the SARS CoV2 antigens.
Mucosal immunity is especially important in that it may prevent infection via the oropharynx and also prevent a detrimental immune response known as enhancement, which can occur in systemic IgG based response. Additionally, the cell-mediated immunity may help clear viral infected cells.
This is significant because it has the chance to prevent a detrimental immune response that may result with only IgG-based immunity. Cell-mediated immunity may help clear viral infected cells.
Zigdon is a senior-level executive with a strong background in the hi-tech, biomed, biotech, and pharma start-up industry. He joined MIGAL in January 2019. Before that, for a period of approximately nine years, Zigdon was CEO and president of Rad BioMed, an Israel-based evergreen family fund that invests in early-stage bio-med startups. Companies that he has founded have a value in excess of $2 billion.
The fact that MigVax is well on it’s way to speeding up the process of developing a vaccine for COVID-19 gives me a great sense of relief. This is especially considering how we’ve heard from experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, indicating that it will take over a year for a vaccine to be developed and approved for public use. Thanks to the support of OurCrowd, Zigdon says that MigVax aims to have the material ready for clinical trials within a few months.
I’m sure we can all agree that the sooner the vaccine is developed and out there for the public, the better. Countless lives and livelihoods are at stake. On behalf of humanity, I wish the MigVax team the best of luck in their mission, and will stay tuned for developments.