Coronavirus breakthrough: New vaccine could provide answer to COVID-19 pandemic

The vaccine is being developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and is the first peer-reviewed antidote. The Pittsburgh team have tested the vaccine on mice and are confident that it will be able to provide immunity for at least a year. An industrial-style production process has been used to produce the Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine (PittCoVacc), meaning that once the go ahead is given, the team will be able to scale up production to deliver tens of thousands of doses per day.

The researchers are in the process of applying for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and hope to receive the green light to start testing in the coming months.

Normally the trials take anywhere between a year and 18 months, before a vaccine becomes publicly available.

However, scientists on the team hope that because of the emergency situation, officials will allow the testing process to be sped up.

Senior study author Professor Louis Falo said: “This particular situation is different from anything we’ve ever seen, so we don’t know how long the clinical development process will take.

“Recently announced revisions to the normal processes suggest we may be able to advance this faster.”

The University was able to quickly develop its vaccine, as a result of its previous experience of working on other coronavirus related epidemics.

Professor Andrea Gambotto explained: “We had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014.

“These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus.”

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This comes as the US death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 5,000, with the country reporting more just under 240,000 infections, the world’s highest figure.

According to data provided by John Hopkins University, there were 884 new deaths within the last 24 hour period.

In another possible major breakthrough, British American Tobacco (BAT) has claimed that it could have a vaccine against COVID-19 ready as early as June.

The vaccine is being developed from tobacco plants, by its US biotech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP).

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KBP has already started pre-clinical testing and if all goes according to plan, then production of the vaccine will begin in June.

The subsidiary has a track record in developing treatments for lethal viruses, having worked on a vaccine for Ebola, during the epidemic in Africa in 2014.

The treatment, known as MB-003, protected 100 percent of non-human primates when given one hour after Ebola exposure.

Up to two-thirds of animals were protected when treated 48 hours after exposure.

BAT is confident that it will be able to manufacture between one and three million vaccine doses per week, once it gets the green light from relevant government agencies.

A spokesperson said: “If testing goes well, BAT is hopeful that, with the right partners and support from government agencies, between one million and three million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June.”

The spokesperson added: “Tobacco plants offer the potential for faster and safer vaccine development compared with conventional methods”.

This is because tobacco plants cannot host pathogens which cause human disease.

The company insisted that it will work on the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis.

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