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UH-Based Research Develops COVID-19 Vaccine in Early Trials

August 3, 2020, 8:09 AM HST
* Updated August 3, 9:07 AM
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Axel Lehrer is an assistant professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine working on the vaccine. (PC: UH-Mānoa)

A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researcher, in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company, has developed a vaccine candidate that shows promise in rapidly inducing immunity to the novel coronavirus in pre-clinical trials.

Axel Lehrer, an assistant professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, is leading a team of scientists in the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology, that is collaborating with New Jersey-based Soligenix, Inc. on this project.

According to a press release from UH-Mānoa, Lehrer and Soligenix have previously demonstrated the feasibility of developing a thermostable Ebola virus and multivalent filovirus vaccines and applied the same technology platform to rapidly develop a vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19, the infection caused by SARS-CoV-2.

“Our work to date has demonstrated not only the feasibility of rapid and efficient manufacturing of the required vaccine antigens, but also the potential for a broadly applicable and easily distributed vaccine,” Lehrer stated. “We are delighted with our earlier successes on development of filovirus and flavivirus vaccines with this platform.”

The release indicates that their vaccine candidate successfully demonstrates the ability to rapidly stimulate a balanced antibody response, which includes potent SARS-CoV-2 neutralization and cell-mediated immunity, a measure necessary to clear a viral infection. In addition, these results generated by Lehrer and his team in a well-defined mouse model using a prototype virus antigen display a rapid onset of immunity with antibody responses detected as early as 7 days after the first vaccination.

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A manuscript presenting the data has been submitted for peer review to npj Vaccines and is available as a preprint on bioRxiv (https://biorxiv.org/cgi/content/short/2020.07.24.220715v1).

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