In the 1950s, Albert Sabin was searching for an improved polio vaccine. To that end, his lab infected the brains of mice, chimpanzees, and monkeys with the virus that causes the disease. They wanted to see if the pathogen would change and if weakened forms might arise.
They eventually isolated versions of the polio virus that could still infect people but didn’t cause paralysis. Sabin’s so-called attenuated strains became the famous oral polio vaccine given on a sugar cube to billions of children.
Now, researchers say, synthetic biology has led to a way to create a weakened form of the pandemic coronavirus that causes covid-19. Although the idea remains a long-shot in the vaccine race, an attenuated coronavirus could be formulated into inexpensive nose drops for use around the world.
The startup company behind the new version of SARS-CoV-2, called Codagenix, is working with Serum Institute of India, based in Pune, which bills itself as the world’s largest vaccine maker. Plans are for the first volunteers to sniff up the synthetically designed virus starting in November, in initial human safety tests in the UK.
The most advanced covid vaccine candidates, including those from AstraZeneca and Moderna Pharmaceuticals, expose a person to only one part of the virus, the crown-shaped “spike” that gives it its name, in order to generate antibodies.
The potential advantage of a vaccine using an attenuated live strain is that the body will encounter—and be able to react to—the entire virus. People will “catch” it through their nose, and it will even grow inside them. In theory, that could prompt the formation of not just antibodies but also T cells and specialized forms of immunity in the nasal passage, leading to broader protection.
It might seem scary to imagine getting infected by the coronavirus on purpose, but attenuated-virus vaccines are common. The kids’ flu vaccine FluMist has a weakened influenza virus in it. And Serum Institute sells 750,000 doses a year of vaccines using live measles. The only disease ever successfully eradicated from
By: David Rotman
Title: Synthetic biologists have created a slow-growing version of the coronavirus to give as a vaccine
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2020/09/16/1008442/synthetic-biologists-have-created-a-slow-growing-version-of-the-coronavirus-to-give-as-a-vaccine/
Published Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2020 11:40:14 +0000
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