As the coronavirus crisis spreads worldwide, scientists at an Israeli research institute are expected to start producing a Covid-19 vaccine within three months, based on a vaccine they have developed against avian coronavirus, a disease affecting poultry. The Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) vaccine, which the MIGAL Galilee research Institute has developed against avian coronavirus after 4 years of research, is to be adapted soon to create a human vaccine against COVID-19, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.
The MIGAL Galilee Research Institute is a regional multi-disciplinary applied R&D center of the Israeli Science and Technology Ministry owned by the Galilee Development Company. It specializes in biotechnology and computer sciences, plant science, precision agriculture and environmental sciences, and food, nutrition and health.
‘’When the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus Cov-19 was published, the researchers realized that the two viruses have the same infection mechanism similarities so they can use it, with small amount of adaptation, to achieve an effective human vaccine in a very short period of time. From there it will go to other research institutes and pharmaceutical firms,’’ Ella Dagan, a spokesperson for MIGAL, told European Jewish Press. ‘’Due to the global urgency, it will need an accelerated process of approval of this vaccine from the regulation authorities,” she said.
Israel’s Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis, congratulated the MIGAL researchers ‘’on this exciting breakthrough. I am confident that there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat.”
The minister has instructed the Director General of the Ministry of Science and Technology to fast-track all approval processes with the goal of bringing the human vaccine to market as quickly as possible.
MIGAL has now made required genetic adjustments to adapt the vaccine to COVID-19, the human strain of Coronavirus, and is working to achieve the safety approvals that will enable in-vivo testing, enable the initiation of production of a vaccine to counter the coronavirus epidemic currently spreading throughout the world, which so far has claimed 3,346 lives.
David Zigdon, CEO of MIGAL Galilee Research Institute declared: “Given the urgent global need for a human Coronavirus vaccine, we are doing everything we can to accelerate development. Our goal is to produce the vaccine during the next 8-10 weeks, and to achieve safety approval in 90 days.’’
He explained that it will be an oral vaccine, making it particularly accessible to the general public. ‘’We are currently in intensive discussions with potential partners that can help accelerate the in-human trials phase and expedite the completion final product development and regulatory activities,” he said.
Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s Biotechnology Group Leader, commented, “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 (a cellular process in which substances are brought into a cell by surrounding the material with cell membrane, forming a vesicle containing the ingested material), causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.’’