UCI Coronavirus Vaccine Could Protect Against All COVID Strains

Friday, January 22, 2021

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UC Irvine scientists are developing a vaccine to attack all strains of coronavirus, the university reported on Jan. 21. Along with the vaccine, scientists say they have identified a potential breakthrough that —if it works—would solve many of the problems related to distributing the medicine to patients across the world, a UCI professor on the project says.

Lbachir BenMohamed— a UCI School of Medicine professor of immunology and the founder of the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology at the University of California, Irvine—says that his team is developing what they envision will be a vaccine that could work on all strains in the SARS-CoV-2 family.

The new UCI vaccine would be a "backup" to the vaccines currently being utilized, according to BenMohamed. He anticipates it will be approved "shortly."

The difference in the UCI vaccine is that it is not "only focused on spike protein to provoke an immune response, like Pfizer's and Moderna's," BenMohomed said.

According to his research, there are two dozen other proteins that can prompt an immune response.

"Right now, we are doing clinical studies," he said. The scientists at UCI are monitoring how the vaccines work on lab mice and expect that work to be done sometime this summer.

The scientists will then generate multiple vaccines and pick the one most effective on the coronavirus, according to BenMohamed.

"Our vaccine is designed to protect from common cold coronavirus... and to protect from the viruses not here yet," BenMohamed said.

There are new strains in Japan and South Africa, with a study this week indicating that the vaccines we have available might not be as potent.

Southern California is currently battling the more highly contagious strain from the United Kingdom, according to BenMohamed. The Japan variant is a mix of the U.K. and South African strains, he said.

"The good news is it looks like the vaccine is efficient against the U.K. variant," BenMohamed said.

The South African strain study is not yet peer-reviewed "we don't really know" how the vaccines would work on it, BenMohamed says. That will be next on their radar.

As for issues with distributing the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as outlined by the Biden administration on Thursday could be solved by another project the scientists are working on, BenMohamed said.

Scientists are determining if a vaccine can be transmitted with "patch technology" similar to the way the nicotine patch works for smokers trying to quit the habit, he said.

"Next week, we'll know if that delivery system will induce the immune system," BenMohamed said.

If so, "we could mail the doses of vaccine... you put it on your arm and then you're vaccinated," BenMohamed said. "Three weeks after that, we'll send you the second dose."

This technology will be especially helpful in distributing vaccines in under-developed countries or remote regions of the world, according to BenMohamed.

Costs associated with distributing a vaccine are six times higher than the cost of manufacturing the medicine, he said.

As for the Biden administration's plan to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days, BehMohammed believes the goal is attainable.

"Fortunately, we have a lot of infrastructure in place" to do it, he said. "This is the first time we're trying to vaccinate 100 million within 100 days. But they have no doubt we're going to overcome all those issues and get all those vaccines to everybody."

But, if UCI's patch project works, "it will solve a lot of problems," he said.

For now, UC Irvine Health has joined the vaccination pool in Orange County.

The group has established a vaccination appointment portal and will be made intermittently available as coronavirus vaccines are released.

"UC Irvine is committed to vaccinating our patients," they said in a recent release.

The hospital is committed to fighting COVID-19.

In the spring of 2020, UCI Health was one of the first hospitals in southern California to test the public for coronavirus, and they plan on playing a role in vaccinating those most at risk of contracting the disease: people 65 and up.

UCI Health opened up the first vaccination appointments on Jan. 11. Since then, they make appointments for vaccinations available when doses become available.

Category: Partner News, Leaders Circle, UCI Health, COVID-19, Vaccines