Israeli scientists are reportedly only a few weeks away from having developed the first vaccine to combat the coronavirus, which originated in China, and could have the vaccine available 90 days after that.
“Congratulations to MIGAL [The Galilee Research Institute] on this exciting breakthrough,” Israel’s Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “I am confident there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,” Akunis said, referring to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
A team of scientists at MIGAL had been working for years on a vaccine against an infectious bronchitis virus (IBV).
“Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotechnology group leader. “The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.”
“Let’s call it pure luck,” Katz said. “We decided to choose coronavirus as a model for our system just as a proof of concept for our technology.”
The Jerusalem Post reported:
But after scientists sequenced the DNA of the novel coronavirus causing the current worldwide outbreak, the MIGAL researchers examined it and found that the poultry coronavirus has high genetic similarity to the human one, and that it uses the same infection mechanism, which increases the likelihood of achieving an effective human vaccine in a very short period of time.
“All we need to do is adjust the system to the new sequence,” Katz said. “We are in the middle of this process, and hopefully in a few weeks we will have the vaccine in our hands. Yes, in a few weeks, if it all works, we would have a vaccine to prevent coronavirus.”