Keeping tabs on Covid-19: Positive results from J&J vaccine, genome scanning platform identifies T cell receptors and new partnership innovates vaccine process

Johnson & Johnson reports on promising results after testing vaccine candidates on monkeys while at the same time announcing the start of Phase 3 clinical trial testing

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With pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and BioNTech announcing developments to fast track their vaccine candidate in clinical trial testing, this week Johnson & Johnson (J&J) reported positive results from a recent study which has shown promising effects from a single dose.  

Read on to delve into the latest updates from pharmaceutical companies around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine protects monkeys, study finds

A research project led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston tested seven different vaccine candidates from J&J’s vaccine unit in monkeys. The results of the research study was published in the journal Nature on July 30 and highlighted the optimal Ad26 vector-based vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, developed by J&J, demonstrating effective protection against the virus from just a single shot.

With the Ad26 vector-based vaccine currently being evaluated in clinical trials, Paul Stoffels, MD., Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer at J&J, said: “We are excited to see these pre-clinical data because they show our SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate generated a strong antibody response and provided protection with a single dose.

“The findings give us confidence as we progress our vaccine development and upscale manufacturing in parallel, having initiated a Phase 1/2a trial in July with the intention to move into a Phase 3 trial in September,”

As the company plans its Covid-19 Phase 3 clinical development program, they claim discussions are underway with J&J partners with the objective to start a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial of the single vaccine dose versus placebo in September, pending the interim data of the Phase 3 and two trials and approval of regulators.

Biotech firm leverages genome scanning platform to understand T cell response to Covid-19

Scientists at TScan Therapeutics, an immuno-oncology biotech company, have turned to a genome-wide scanning technology to rapidly identify the natural targets of T cell receptors (TCRs) to combat coronavirus.

In a statement, TScan said: “Like many scientists, we are looking to use our expertise to help with the current coronavirus pandemic. We are using our platform to understand the T cell response to SARS-CoV-2 with the intention of making the resulting data publicly available. It is our hope that this data could better inform efforts to design a vaccine that confers long-term immunity.”

TScan’s scientists claimed the technology could rapidly determine the viral targets of more than 1,000 TCRs at a time. By identifying the T cell targets in patients with varying severity of symptoms, as well as patients that have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection, TScan can identify protective epitopes that could better inform vaccine development.

New pharma partnership produces Covid-19 vaccine based on immunogenic spike protein

Intravacc, a research and development company in viral vaccines, and Celonic Group, a biopharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization, have signed a research agreement to further design, develop and produce a Covid-19 vaccine based on an immunogenic spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.

Combining the development of the vaccine with Intravacc’s prorietary Outer Membrane Vesicle (OMV) technology will enable scientists to construct cell lines producing spike protein in high qualities while enabling manufacturers to develop a good manufacturing practice production process, Intravacc claimed.

Intravcc CEO Dr. Jan Groen said: “Several studies have shown that OMVs have the ability to enhance the immune response and can be relatively easy formulated with target specific peptides and proteins. This combined with the fact they can be quickly scaled-up for manufacturing, makes it an ideally suited platform under the current circumstances where quantity and speed are critical.”

Dr. Konstantin Matentzoglu, CEO of Celonic, added: “We are thrilled to join hands with Intravacc in the fight against this worldwide pandemic. The novel vaccine has the potential to prevent morbidity and mortality of Covid-19. Together, we have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients at this time of great need.”

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