“It is necessary to have more ammunition to fight this war against Covid, so the new Italian vaccine is welcome. But there are two things that worry us: the funding to be found, which is substantial, and the times, which could be long”.
While the debate within the government on the Green Pass and the hypothesis of vaccination obligation continues, the virologist of the University of Milan Fabrizio Pregliasco invites us to push on the accelerator of research, focusing our attention on the newcomer in terms of weapons that can guarantee immunity from the virus. This is Covid-eVax, a DNA vaccine developed by Takis and Rottapharm Biotech which, the scientists of the Italian companies involved explained, “was well tolerated and induced an antibody and / or cellular immune response in up to 90% of the volunteers” (70 in all, recruited from Monza, Naples and Verona). This is testified by the preliminary data of phase I, conducted in Italy. COVID-eVax is the first DNA vaccine against Covid-19 reaching the clinical development stage in Europe.
How it works
“Covid-eVax is an innovative vaccine different from others approved or in development,” insist the researchers. It works in synergy with “electroporation”, a technology developed in collaboration with the Igea company in Carpi: thanks to short electrical stimuli it mediates the passage of DNA inside the cells and activates the immune system. The advantages would be: “DNA is cheap, does not need complex formulations, can be produced on a large scale and does not need the cold chain”.
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“Covid-eVax is a” precision “vaccine because it produces only a specific portion of the Spike protein, which is essential for the virus to enter our cells – he pointed out. Emanuele Marra, Director of Takis’ Infectious Diseases Department -. The data obtained indicate a high level of safety and potential efficacy “.
“The studies carried out show that the antibodies generated by the vaccine are able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 and its most troubling variants to similar levels,” he added. Giuseppe Roscilli, director of the generation and production department of monoclonal antibodies, of Takis. But the run of this vaccine is not without obstacles.
Vaccines as ammunition for the war on Covid
For the virologist Pregliasco it is a question of “widening as much as possible the availability of tools capable of effectively fighting Covid”. As if they were ammunition to be kept ready for a new phase of the war that has been fought for over a year and a half. Put simply, use this and other new vaccines for a possible third dose to be scheduled in the fall. And so do Takis and Rottapharm Biotech for Covid-eVax. “The available vaccines have shown excellent efficacy, but several are needed to cope with the pandemic, with a virus that will be endemic – explains Pregliasco -. The effects of this pandemic must be considered as waves of water caused by the launch of a stone: the first are given by the harshest consequences, those we have already experienced; the second by what will happen from now on. Because we can see the situation as the presence of two pandemics: that of previous serious cases and that of the infected, but not problematic. So why are more vaccines needed? Because we have to imagine vaccination against Covid profiled as the flu: to be proposed every year “.
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Financing and time, two factors that weigh
For ReiThera, an all-Italian anti Covid vaccine developed in collaboration with the Spallanzani Institute in Rome, which had completed Phase 1 and was traveling quickly towards Phase 2, the problem of funding was decisive, which was not there, so much so that it slowed down. the process. For Covid-eVax, the same scenario is likely to arise. Indeed, it has already opened. “We were ready to start testing our vaccine as early as April 2020 but, after several delays that did not depend on us, we moved in March 2021 – summarizes Lucio Rovati, president and scientific director of Rottapharm Biotech -. Then everything went well: we enrolled 70 patients, did the experimentation and obtained good results. But phase 2 should now open, followed by phase 3. However, funding is needed to do this. We have done everything we can, we cannot go on. For the second phase, about 20 million euros would be needed, for the 3 other tens, or perhaps hundreds. With the necessary resources we would be able to conclude next year, ensuring the availability of the vaccine. ”
“We need an organization that supports research”
The theme of support for research also recurs in Pregliasco’s speeches. Which says: “If the new Italian vaccine wants to see the light, we need an organization that finances the continuation of the work. Phase 1 is the first tested on humans, and acts as a filter – explains the virologist – 2 and 3 they are those in which, among other things, dosage and safety are established. They last an average of 3-4 months. Provided, however, they can be financially supported. It therefore takes time, but resources are also needed. And, the more you go ahead with vaccinations, the more difficult it is to find volunteers for trials. One way can be to look for them internationally, even if this involves some expense. In any case it is a road that should be followed because we can still give a lot to fight this pandemic, which is testing us even today “.