Coronavirus update: List of WHO's top-8 contenders for COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus vaccine update: World leaders and organisations except the United States have already pledged $8 billion to research, manufacture, and distribute a possible vaccine and treatment for COVID-19

17 May 2020 | Business Today

Five months into the global outbreak of COVID-19, the world is racing against time to prepare a vaccine for treating coronavirus patients. Trials are underway in laboratories across the world, with several companies and governments doubling their efforts to find a permanent cure for the deadly virus. World leaders and organisations except the United States have already pledged $8 billion to research, manufacture, and distribute a possible vaccine and treatment for COVID-19 apart from the individual efforts taken by the countries and their pharmaceutical firms. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified top eight candidates for the coronavirus vaccine:

1. CanSino Biological Inc/Beijing Institute of Biotechnology:

The Chinese vaccine has been named as a top contender by WHO. China's CanSino Bio's  Adenovirus Type 5 Vector (Ad5-nCoV) is said to be an advanced DNA vaccine candidate at the moment against COVID-19

The Ad5-nCoV candidate vaccine has been developed using technology from both China and Canada. It is co-developed by the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology (BIB) and CanSino Biologics Inc. The vaccine is developed using a genetically engineered replication-defective adenovirus type 5 vector to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is grown using living cells.

2. Moderna/NIAID

Moderna Inc, one of the leaders among US companies, has created an experimental candidate vaccine called mRNA-1273. Moderna's candidate vaccine has received approval from the US FDA to conduct the Phase-2 clinical trial last week only.  The Phase-2 trial will assess the safety and immunogenicity of two mRNA-1273 vaccinations.

In the phase-2 trial, around 600 healthy volunteers aged 18 years and above will be enrolled for the trial. This will follow the participants for 12 months following the second vaccination. In the second phase trial, volunteers will be given a placebo dose for both vaccinations

The company received funding from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

3. Wuhan Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm

Another Chinese vaccine entered the second phase of clinical trials on the WHO list. It is an "inactivated" type of candidate vaccine. This has been developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products under the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).  

Both the first and the second phase of clinical trials of the inactivated vaccine have been approved by the National Medical Products Administration.

Sinopharm said the vaccine may take about a year to complete the clinical trial and finally reach a conclusion on the vaccine's safety and efficacy.

4. Beijing Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm

Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm Group has made progress in developing vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus. Sinopharm's second inactivated vaccine won clinical trial approval from the National Medical Products Administration. The vaccine is co-developed by a unit under CNBG-Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Inactivated vaccines use non-living viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens that have lost disease-producing capacity to stimulate the immune system to develop an immune response.

5. Sinovac

Sinovac is also working on a formalin-inactivated and alum-adjuvanted candidate vaccine for coronavirus.  In the first phase of the trial, the company did an experiment on 144 healthy participants between 18 and 59 years old. They were given "two different dosages" of the vaccine or placebo.

6. University of Oxford

The University of Oxford has reported positive findings of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate involving six rhesus macaque monkeys. Rhesus macaques have similar immune systems to humans.

In this experiment, the monkeys were exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The six animals that were vaccinated had less of the virus in their lungs and airways. Besides, the vaccine appeared to protect the animals against developing pneumonia.s

7. BioNTech/Fosun Pharma/Pfizer

Pfizer and Biopharmaceutical New Technologies (BioNTech) have dosed the first participants of a phase 1/2 trial for their COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT162 in the US.

In March, the companies co-developed and supplied potential mRNA-based coronavirus vaccines, including BNT162.

The dose level escalation portion, which will be stage 1 of the Phase 1/2 trial in the US, will feature up to 360 healthy subjects in two age groups, between 18-55 and 65-85 years.

8. Inovio Pharmaceuticals

Biotech firm Inovio Pharmaceuticals is currently running a phase 1 clinical trial for INO-4800 (a DNA plasmid vaccine with electroporation). The trial will involve 40 healthy adult volunteers. Each participant will receive two doses of the vaccine four weeks apart. The trial will test the safety of INO-4800, as well as its ability to trigger an immune response in the body.