After the bites, the tablets? According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel is set to become the first country to test an oral vaccine. Oravax Medical is currently awaiting clearance from the Israeli Ministry of Health. The latter’s response is expected within a few weeks.
Oramed Pharmaceuticals has obtained approval from Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv to start clinical trials on humans: 24 unvaccinated volunteers will test a pill supposed to immunize against the coronavirus, half of them with a single dose and the other half with two doses, reports the Jerusalem Post. These tests should last approximately six weeks. There will be no control group, since this phase 1 and 2 will only be used to measure the level of antibodies against the coronavirus produced by the patients and to test the safety of the vaccine. A phase 3 should follow, on a larger group of volunteers.
The Oravax vaccine, several thousand capsules of which have already been produced in Europe for this trial, is based on three structural proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, unlike all current vaccines which target only the peak protein “Spike”. Therefore, “our vaccine should be much better to respond to future mutations in the virus,” says Nadav Kidron, director of Oramed Pharmaceuticals, the Israeli biotech who co-founded Oravax Medical with an Indian start-up, Premas Biotech. “If a variant manages to bypass the first line of defense, there will be a second and then a third,” he said.
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Oravax Medical has already performed several tests on animals, including pigs. They are promising: the vaccine induced the production of IgG and IgA antibodies against Sars-CoV-2, effective even on the Delta variant. It will be particularly interesting to follow the results of the clinical trial conducted “in real life” in Israel. If the tests are conclusive, the new vaccine will be sent as a priority to emerging countries where the vaccination rate is still low and which have fewer means to inoculate conventional vaccines.
- What would be the advantages of this potential vaccine?
“If we can immunize people with just one pill, it will be a revolution for the whole world,” says Nadav Kidron. “If people could take a pill at home instead of having to go to a clinic, immunization campaigns could speed up dramatically,” said Oravax Medical Scientific Director, Dr Miriam Kidron. “This oral vaccine could allow us to vaccinate much faster and much easier. Just imagine that you didn’t have to go to a clinic. The pill could even arrive in your mailbox and you could take it. at your place, “Miriam Kidron declared on March 25 at the Times of Israel.
Indeed, its shape could, according to the boss of Israeli biotech, facilitate its conservation, distribution and administration. This vaccine does not need to be stored at low temperature, and does not require the intervention of health professionals for injections, unlike current anti-Covid vaccines. These characteristics are particularly interesting for poor countries, which are lagging behind in vaccination, explains Nadav Kidron. “Ease of administration is decisive for accelerating the vaccination campaign in the world,” says the latter. This vaccine could also serve as a booster dose. In addition, an oral vaccine generally induces fewer side effects.
- Why should we remain cautious?
Although there are already several oral vaccines on the market, especially against cholera, influenza or polio, it is not certain that their effectiveness against Sars-CoV-2 is so great. “Although the intestine is considered an important gateway for the virus, the blood immune response of patients with Covid-19 is dominated by lymphocytes, which are mainly triggered by other areas and organs of the body” , explains Sebastian Zundler, researcher at Erlingen University in Germany and co-author of a study published in April in Frontiers in Immunology, reports Futura Sciences.
In addition, immune cells induced by the gut are greatly “diluted” compared to those produced by the lungs.
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- Are other oral vaccines under study?
Israeli society is not alone in the oral vaccine niche. Start-up Rapid Dose Therapeutics and a team from McMaster University (Canada) are also working on a vaccine in the form of a strip that dissolves in the mouth, reports Futura Sciences. These strips, infused with advanced virus proteins, can be stored for several months at up to 40 degrees. Development is only at the preliminary stage, but animal studies are also encouraging.