Vaccination by nasal spray: Austro researchers in the USA develop one-dollar vaccine

Vaccination by nasal spray: Austro researchers in the USA develop one-dollar vaccine

Researchers led by Austrian scientist Peter Palese are working on a vaccine that can be administered through the nose and should not cost more than one dollar per dose.

11:58 a.m., March 12, 2021

© Alliance / (Ihar Ulashchyk)

A Covid-19 vaccine that should cost significantly less than a dollar per dose, has developed a team around Austrian researchers working in New York. The first clinical studies on this have recently started in Southeast Asia and Latin America. The scientists around Peter Palese from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are convinced that their vaccine will be needed in the medium term, especially in middle- and lower-income countries, the researcher told the APA.

Palese from Linz is director of the Department of Microbiology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and has a lot of experience in vaccine development. In addition to his specialty, the influenza viruses, which he deals with in cooperation with the Austrian virologist Florian Krammer, who works there, the scientists were also able to rely on their experience with coronaviruses in the past pandemic year.

The new SARS-CoV-2 virus is comparable to a new, fundamental variation of flu viruses. As is well known, almost all people have already had to do with coronaviruses, but the new pathogen is clearly different. Ultimately, this shows how a population reacts when it is confronted with a pathogen that it is “naive” about – that is, with which the immune system has no experience.

As is well known, New York was one of the first Covid 19 hotspots last spring. “I have to admit that at the beginning I didn’t think that this virus would have such a catastrophic impact on the whole world,” said Palese. Soon after the pandemic began, over 2000 patients were admitted to the Mount Sinai Hospital and there were many deaths every day in the worst of times.

Together with Krammer’s working group – which made people sit up and take notice very early on with a newly developed antibody test – and that of Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, Palese’s team then set about developing a vaccine. Compared to the large pharmaceutical companies that have made incredible leaps in vaccine development in a very short time with massive financial support from politicians, the prerequisites for Palese and his colleagues are of course different.

Some researchers from the teams have also been poached from companies in recent months. “I’m not happy about that, but it’s true,” said Palese: “I’m very impressed with the excellent results that were achieved there.”

The team wants to “fill a gap” with its own vaccine. This is a so-called Vector vaccine, in which parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus genome – namely the part that the Building instructions for the spike protein on the surface – brought into the body via another virus. Palese and colleagues use that “Newcastle Disease Virus” (NDV), which causes the atypical avian influenza in chickens in particular and is not dangerous for humans.

The researcher explained that the experience with this type of virus as a vector is now being used for the Covid 19 vaccine. In the first studies, among others in the journal “EBioMedicine”, it could be shown that a good immune response to the new coronavirus build up. The scientists have now started in Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, Mexico and also in New York first, smaller phase I clinical studies. Palese: “It is necessary that states with middle and lower incomes also have access to a vaccine.”

The great advantage of the approach is that in countries with lower incomes you can offer an alternative to the up to 50 euros expensive vaccine doses from other developers, as Palese emphasized: “Our vaccine should be well under a dollar.” In addition, the NDV-based vaccine can be administered through the nose. This increases the chance of preventing the virus from being passed on, because immunity is built up in the upper respiratory tract, and also makes the active ingredient Administration to children Interesting. It also looks very much like that the vaccine can be administered with very few side effects.

“In addition, this vaccine is very stable”stressed the scientist. It does not have to be stored as deeply refrigerated as other vaccines. A storage “at a normal refrigerator temperature of two to four degrees Celsius” enough. It is also conceivable to administer the vaccine in addition, should new SARS-CoV-2 variants actually occur, which can effectively evade vaccination protection that has already been established. “One could do that with our vaccine via nasal spray vaccinate quickly and easily. “

The 76-year-old admitted that he had been afraid of infection for a long time. Since he and his team were vaccinated, he has felt liberated. “The vaccines are really excellent and safe,” says the scientist, who assumes that the vaccines that have been approved so far also offer sufficient protection against the virus variants that have emerged up to now. Studies from South Africa, according to which the protection after administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine is significantly reduced compared to the “South Africa variant”, are presumably not transferable one to one to the USA or Europe. “I would rather look at these studies with a certain degree of caution.”

The renowned researcher does not understand that the AstraZeneca vaccine in particular is being met with a great deal of skepticism in Austria, for example: “I think that is an exaggeration.” Palese believes the demonstrations against the Covid-19 measures in Vienna, for example, are “very unwise. The vaccine is the only thing that will stimulate our economy and really help us.”

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