NHRI sees progress in COVID-19 vaccine, human trials likely this year

Illustrative image taken from Pixabay.com

TAIPEI (CNA) — Promising results have been seen in research on a DNA vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus, with human trials likely to commence later this year, Taiwan’s National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) said Monday.

The DNA-based candidate proved potent in animal testing, the NHRI said, which has been conducting experiments on four vaccine varieties since February.

According to the research institute, one is a peptide vaccine, which uses protein components to engineer targeted immune responses. The other types being tested are DNA-based and recombinant subunit vaccines and vaccines with rearranged genomes.

The NHRI’s research has found that when administered with the DNA-type vaccine, the cells in laboratory hamsters were able to mass produce pathogens to trigger an immune response, said Liao Ching-len (廖經倫), director of the NHRI’s Institute of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology.

The groups given this vaccine type also showed no significant weight loss or reduction in activity when exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in contrast to those not immunized, and they were able to curb the viral load in their lungs to as low as 1 percent, Liao said.

Human trials for the vaccine could take place as early as later this year and hopefully reach the market in the second half of 2021, Liao said.

He said the NHRI will work with Taichung-based Enimmune Corp. on the vaccine’s production.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are now four different types of DNA-based vaccines currently undergoing clinical trials in a number of countries, including the United States, South Korea, Japan and India.

The NHRI said it has already applied for a U.S. patent for its DNA vaccine design.