Covid-19

‘Revolutionary’ needle-free Covid-19 vaccine begins clinical trials

Researchers have developed a new Covid-19 vaccine that can be administered with air-jet technology, instead of a needle.

Known as DIOSynVax, the “revolutionary” vaccine is hoped to provide long-lasting protection for both SARS-CoV-2 and other related diseases.

To gain entry to cells, SARS uses something called ‘spike’ proteins which, upon vaccination, the body’s immune system can identify and ultimately block or eliminate.

The spike protein sequence of an early Covid-19 patient was used to develop the current crop of vaccines, however, as each variant of the virus emerged its spike protein changed, making it more difficult for the immune system to fight.

A team from the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s (NIHR) Cambridge Clinical Research Facility however, have not developed DIOSynVax around a protein sequence and in lieu have:

  • Worked to predict how the virus may evolve;
  • Established which parts of the virus stay the same across the different strands;
  • Used synthetic gene technology – DNA.

Because of how it has been designed, the vaccine can be manufactured as a powder meaning it can be more widely distributed – for example, to countries that don’t have reliable cold-chain storage – which researchers hope will increase access to vaccines and reduce inequalities.

With clinical trials at NIHR’s Southampton Clinical Research Facility already underway, study teams are now broadening their scope into Cambridge with volunteers now testing DIOSynVax there as well.

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The director at NIHR’s Southampton Clinical Research Facility, Professor Saul Faust, said: “It is critical that different vaccine technologies are tested as part of the UK and global response to the pandemic because at this stage no one can be sure which type of vaccine will produce the best and most long-lived immune responses.

“It is especially exciting that the clinical trial will test giving the vaccine through people’s skin using a device without any needles. Together with stable DNA vaccine technology this could be a major breakthrough in being able to give a future vaccine to huge numbers of people across the world.”

The University of Cambridge’s Professor Jonathan Heeney, who helped create the vaccine, added: “The current trial is at a crucial stage of development, and is the first step of taking this technology further towards what we hope will eventually become a universal coronavirus vaccine.”

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