A new COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) began a phase one clinical trial this week, following positive preclinical showings against SARS-CoV-2, its variants, and SARS-CoV-1, as well.
“Even before recent COVID-19 variants were identified, our team was concerned about the emergence of new coronaviruses in human populations, a threat that has been accelerating in recent years,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch (EIDB) at WRAIR and co-inventor of the candidate. “That’s why we need a vaccine like this: one that has potential to protect broadly and proactively against multiple coronavirus species and strains.”
Modjarrad’s partner in the vaccine’s creation was WRAIR structural biologist Dr. Gordon Joyce. Together, they created a nanoparticle vaccine based on a ferritin platform. What makes it different from other vaccines is its multi-faced sphere design, which allows it a more flexible approach to combating variants and coronaviruses and a more ordered introduction of the coronavirus spike protein to the immune system. They view it as a potentially universal vaccine.
“This first in human clinical trial of a novel vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 demonstrates the strength of WRAIR’s ability to very quickly transition exciting basic science discoveries to the clinic with the promise of developing a public health tool for long-term pandemic control,” Dr. Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research, said.
The phase one study is being conducted at the WRAIR Clinical Trials Center. In all, 72 healthy adult volunteers between 18 and 55 years old will be enrolled and given either the vaccine candidate or a placebo.