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April 03, 2020 Friday 06:17:51 PM IST

University of Pittsburgh Covid-19 Vaccine Undergoes Animal Trials Successfully

Image by Gerd Altman for Pixabay

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have announced the development of a potential vaccine agaisnt SARS-CoV 2, the new coronavirus that is causing the pandemic. It was tested in mice through a fingertip-sized patch. The results were promising as it produced antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 thought to be sufficient for neutralizing the virus. 
A novel approach was used to deliver the vaccine through a microneedle array to increase the poteny. This array is a fingertip-sized patch of 400 tiny needles that delivers the spike protein pieces into the skin, where the immune reaction is strongest. The patch goes on like a Band-Aid and then the needles—which are made entirely of sugar and the protein pieces—simply dissolve into the skin.
The system is also highly scalable. The protein pieces are manufactured by a “cell factory”—layers upon layers of cultured cells engineered to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—that can be stacked further to multiply yield. Purifying the protein can also be done at industrial scale. Mass-producing the microneedle array involves spinning down the protein-sugar mixture into a mold using a centrifuge. Once manufactured, the vaccine can sit at room temperature until it’s needed, eliminating the need for refrigeration during transport or storage. 
The researchers have previous experience in working on SARS-Cov 2003 and MERS-Cov 2014. Scientists from diverse areas of research collaborated to make the vaccine. It followed a more established approach using lab-made pieces of viral protein to build immunity. It is similar to the way flu shots work.
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