An Israeli scientist works at a laboratory where efforts are underway to produce a vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus adapted from another for infectious bronchitis virus. Photo by JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images

Coronavirus Vaccine Developments

Coronavirus vaccine efforts are underway in Israel.

In the fight against the novel coronavirus, many have placed their hopes in the speedy development of a vaccine, which would theoretically allow the world to return to normal operations by protecting those who have been immunized against the virus. While this is certainly the ideal scenario, even if a vaccine is developed, many warn that it would not immediately mitigate the problems posed by the virus.

Professor Itamar Shalit, a senior researcher and director at MigVax, a medical company located in Kiryat Shemona, Israel, cautions that multiple different types of vaccines will be required to account for the sheer quantity of doses required to treat people around the world: “Billions of doses of the vaccine will be required worldwide to adequately address the coronavirus epidemic. Multiple sources of vaccines and manufacturing will be necessary. People think the winner [the first vaccine to be completed] takes it all. We are going to need much more than one vaccine. Manufacturing the needed quantity for all the world will require different types of vaccines.” 

MigVax is one of the many companies across the world working on such a vaccine. The company’s goal is to modify an existing vaccine that protects poultry against a coronavirus strain that causes bronchial disease. They will begin a safety and efficacy assessment in rodents in May with hopes to begin human trials during the summer. These trials will take six to nine months, but MigVax is very optimistic that the modified vaccine will be effective. The company recently announced that it has secured a $12 million investment that will help accelerate its vaccine development efforts via OurCrowd, a Jerusalem-based crowdfunding website.

Another coronavirus vaccine development effort is underway in Tel Aviv, where Tel Aviv University was granted a patent for technology that researchers hope will lead to an especially effective vaccine. The university explained the patented design in a statement: “The vaccine targets the novel coronavirus’s Achilles’ heel, its Receptor Binding Motif (RBM), a critical structure that enables the virus to bind to and infect a target cell. The vaccine would reconstruct the coronavirus’s RBM.”

Tel Aviv University Professor Jonathan Gershoni, who leads the development of this technology says that to continue development and to incorporate it into a mass-produced vaccine, it will require a partnership with a pharmaceutical company. “It needs a company that understands how to integrate our template for a vaccine into their product,” stated Gershoni. “That is something that can take months. Not a long time.” Gershoni added that he is in contact with such a company, but it is too early to know if a deal will be made.

It remains to be seen which coronavirus vaccine development efforts, if any, will be successful and if or when it will be possible to produce vaccines in large enough quantities to mitigate the threat of the virus. These numerous different methods around the world being used to tackle the problem provide hope that a vaccine will be available at some point, but due to the extensive testing necessary to complete such a vaccine, it is likely a long way off. Until then, scientists will work tirelessly to put an end to the pandemic that has controlled the world for the last two months. 

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Justin Diament is a senior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, N.J. He is a staff writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

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