An Italian coronavirus vaccine has antibodies generated in mice that work on human cells, according to tests carried out at Rome’s infectious-disease Spallanzani Hospital.
Luigi Aurisicchio, CEO of Takis, the firm developing the medication, said that a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) candidate vaccine has neutralized the virus in human cells for the first time.
“This is the most advanced stage of testing of a candidate vaccine created in Italy,” Aurisicchio told the Italian newsagency ANSA. “Human tests are expected after this summer,” he added.
“According to Spallanzani Hospital, as far as we know we are the first in the world so far to have demonstrated a neutralization of the coronavirus by a vaccine. We expect this to happen in humans too,” said Aurisicchio.
He explains that Takis is exploring “more interesting technological platforms with LineaRx, an American company.
“We are working hard for a vaccine coming from Italian research, with an all-Italian and innovative technology, tested in Italy and made available to everyone. In order to reach this goal we need the support of national and international institutions and partners who may help us speed up the process.”
Aurisicchio added: “This is not a competition. If we join our forces and skills together we can all win against coronavirus.”
Italian researchers describe the results “encouraging and well beyond expectations.”
After a single vaccination, the mice developed antibodies that can block the virus from infecting human cells, Aurisicchio said.
After observing that the five vaccine candidates generated a large number of antibodies, researchers selected the two with the best results.
Serum was isolated from the antibody-rich blood; it was then analyzed in the virology laboratory of the Spallanzani Institute, one of the most advanced establishments in Europe. The next step now is to understand how much the immune response lasts.
All of the vaccine candidates currently being developed are based on the material genetic of DNA protein “spike”, the molecular tip used by the coronavirus to enter human cells.
They are injected with the so-called “electroporation” technique, which consists of an intramuscular injection followed by a brief electrical impulse, helping the vaccine break into the cells and activating the immune system.
Researchers believe that this makes their vaccine particularly effective for generating functional antibodies against the “spike” protein, in particular in the lung cells, which are the most vulnerable to coronavirus.
“So far, the immunity generated by most of our five vaccine candidates has an effect on the virus. We expect even better results after the second vaccination,” said Dr Emanuele Marra from Takis.
Marra added that those vaccine candidates could adapt to any COVID-19 evolutions and its possible mutations.
“We are already working on a trial version in case the virus accumulates mutations and becomes invisible to the immune system. For this purpose, we use the same concept we use in developing cancer vaccines,” he said.