A CORONAVIRUS vaccine taken by a tablet rather than an injection could be ready next year, a top scientist says.
Biotech company Vaxart in the US have developed an oral vaccine for the deadly disease – which will enter human trials at the start of July.
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And immunologist Dr Sean Tucker, chief scientific officer at Vaxart, believes that "millions of doses" of the vaccine will be ready by the start of next year.
It comes as thousands of scientists across the world are racing to find a vaccine to thwart the pandemic.
Dr Tucker told the MailOnline: "My hope is that us and others will be able to have very large vats of [vaccine] material, millions and millions of doses by the end of the year, early next year.
"We hope that a vaccine solution will allow things to open up and for people to be going out and about again."
A team of eight at Vaxart, a publicly listed biotech company that specialises in the development of oral recombinant vaccines, have been working seven days a week since January to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.
My hope is that we will be able to have millions and millions of doses by the end of the year, early next year
They currently have several contenders, all of which are being fast-tracked through trials.
The vaccines are made from a dead adenovirus – one of the causes of common colds – into which some of the 30 genes that make up Covid-19's DNA have been inserted.
Adenoviruses are extremely common and are the cause of about ten per cent of childhood illnesses and almost every child has had at least one illness caused by adenoviruses by the time they reach ten-years-old.
Unlike most vaccines, which are made to be injected, the Vaxart drug will be delivered in tablet form.
The scientists claim this is more quickly manufactured and gets around the current global shortage of vials and syringes caused by the pandemic.
In particular, Dr Tucker believes their vaccine will prove effective given it is delivered into the intestine – a wet surface – which creates a "great immune response" throughout the blood.
He added: "That's the way our vaccine works – it's designed to mount an immune response on wet surfaces such as the respiratory tract, which Covid-19 infects."
The vaccines are currently being tested in the lab and trialled on mice, which Dr Tucker says has shown promising results.
Earlier this month, Vaxart revealed the animal trials had shown an unusually early Immunoglobin G (IgG) response to coronavirus.
IgG are the antibodies that kill off the virus and have the potential to provide long-term protection from the bug.
People who have already had Covid-19 already have coronavirus-killing IgG antibodies and it is those that appear in antibody tests for the virus.
For Dr Tucker, the rapid production of IgG antibodies at an early stage is a promising sign that not only does his candidate vaccine work, it works fast.
Phase one human trials will begin in July using a small group of patients – which will examine whether the vaccines work and whether they produce any side effects.
If phase one proves successful, phase two human trials will test a larger group, and then phase three will involve hundreds more people.
The final phase focuses on whether the vaccine produces any long-term benefits or harms.
Volunteers will be recruited in the US via research groups – with many being approached to be involved via social media.
Vaxart have previously been successful in creating vaccines – having made a tablet-based flu vaccine.
A study published in medical journal The Lancet showed it was just as effective as a regular flu shot and the development was dubbed "encouraging" and "potentially important" by US health chiefs.
Currently, there are 120 projects across the globe focusing on developing a Covid-19 vaccine, five of which have already moved into human trials.
In particular, at the end of April a team of researchers at the University of Oxford started testing a Covid-19 vaccine in human volunteers.
Around 1,110 are said to be taking part in the trial, half receiving the vaccine candidate and the other half (the control group) receiving a widely available meningitis vaccine.
And results from the trial could be available by the middle of June.
The vaccine project has also cleared an important hurdle – after showing good results in tests on rhesus macaque monkeys.
The researchers said that their vaccine had solid signs of priming the monkeys' immune systems to fend off the virus and showed no signs of adverse effects.
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