St. Louis-developed COVID-19 nasal spray provided 'unprecedented levels of protection' in study

Vaccine licensed to local start-up and Indian company

Michael Calhoun
September 24, 2020 - 11:46 am

    ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - One billion people around the world could get vaccinated for COVID-19 with a formula developed at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine.

    It could also be the formula that eventually knocks the virus out of our lives.

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    WashU researchers developed a vaccine that's unlike other candidates because a) it uses a chimpanzee version of the common cold and b) is a nasal spray.

    They've found the nasal spray sterilizes the upper airways, which appears to provide immunity in the upper respiratory tract and also knocks out a transmission point.

    That's a reason there's hope for this to be the vaccine which puts Covid-19 in the history books, even though other companies' products are further along.

    WashU cancer biologist Dr. David Curiel says the respiratory impact "may be pivotal in preventing the virus from being transmitted laterally. This may be an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus within a group."

    Also, this nasal spray vaccine only requires one dose. Many of the candidates which are closer to release require a booster to remain effective.

    The scientific journal Cell recently published findings that the nasal spray demonstrated "unprecedented levels of protection" in studies of mice.

    Why did researchers use a strain of common cold virus found in animals instead of humans?

    "The reason that we use the chimp adnovirus is it can traverse any preformed immunity people would have to the common cold virus," Curiel said.

    He's also interim CEO of Precision Virologics, the St. Louis medical start-up which is partnering with India-based vaccine manufacturing giant Bharat Biotech to test and make it. They hope to scale to a billion doses.

    "In the context of something very new, the findings were so effective, so surprising, that we had buy-in very quickly from an established, major vaccine manufacturer," Curiel said.

    Precision has rights for the United States, Europe, and Japan; Bharat for the rest of the world.

    Saint Louis University's Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit will host phase one trials in the U.S., possibly by March 2021. Meantime, Bharat will conduct its own clinical trials in India.

    Manufacturing would take place in Genome Valley, India.

    The creation of Precision Virologics was funded by BioGenerator, the investment arm of BioSTL.

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