Photo: Pool, AP
It worked on monkeys, so researchers at the University of Oxford have high hopes that their coronavirus vaccine will also work on humans.
But they don’t expect preliminary results until the middle of June, John Bell, a regius professor of medicine at Oxford, told BBC Radio on Thursday.
Human trials — the first in Europe for a vaccine — began April 23, following successful tests on rhesus macaque monkeys in late March.
The results were so promising that British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca agreed to partner with the Oxford team to help ramp up production of the hAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine once the human trials are completed, according to the BBC.
AstraZeneca isn’t the only Big Pharma company betting on the vaccine. Last week, the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, announced it would begin mass-producing hAdOx1 nCoV-19 without it being approved or even knowing if it works.
The University of Oxford researchers had projected that human trials would conclude in September, but the Serum Institute decided that was too long to wait. So it’s using its own funds to produce 40 million units of the vaccine.
Manufacturing a vaccine before it’s proven effective and before it receives regulatory approval flips the normal development process on its head. It’s a huge risk, but one that some companies are willing to take in order to get a jump on deploying a vaccine on the massive scale needed to defeat the pandemic.
Other drug companies and biotechs are also making progress in developing a vaccine:
— Pfizer and BioNTech injected 12 healthy people in Germany with their experimental BNT162 vaccine.
— Moderna has begun human trials, and is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for its mRNAA-1273 vaccine.
— GlaxoSmithKline and the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi expect their vaccine will be ready for human testing in the second half of 2020.
Whether any vaccine can offer long-term protection against the coronavirus remains to be seen.
“SARS-CoV-2 is a highly contagious virus. A vaccine will need to induce durable high level immunity, but coronaviruses often don’t induce that kind of immunity.” Dr. David States, human genetics professor at the University of Michigan, systems biologist and bioinformatics pioneer, wrote in a Twitter thread last week.
“They induce an immune response, but it tends to fade so the same virus can reinfect us a year or two later,” he stated.
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Mike Moffitt is an SFGATE Digital Reporter. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @Mike_at_SFGate