Coronavirus vaccine update: Bharat Biotech starts human trial at PGI-Rohtak

Researchers at the University of Oxford believe they may have a breakthrough in their search for a Covid-19 vaccine after the team discovered that the jab could provide “double protection” against the deadly coronavirus following early stage human trials, according to media reports in the UK. The total number of coronavirus cases across the world has crossed the 13.9-million mark and the death toll has gone past 590,000.

Given the scale this pandemic is assuming at fast pace, pharmaceutical companies and scientists are working overtime under pressure to come up with a vaccine as soon as possible. There currently are over 100 vaccines at various stages of development worldwide, including in India, Britain, China, the US, Russia and Israel. There are at least 21 vaccines currently under key trials, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

China's Sinovac Biotech, China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and AstraZeneca's experimental Covid-19 vaccine are in late-stage Phase III trials. Moderna, AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Novavax, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are some players among those leading the race at present.

Coronavirus treatment: Updates on coronavirus vaccine/drug development:

1. Bharat Biotech starts human trial at PGI-Rohtak

Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij on Friday said that human trial of a vaccine against novel coronavirus has begun at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Rohtak.

Human trial of COVAXIN of Bharat Biotech has started at PGIMES, Rohtak, Vij tweeted.

"Three subjects enrolled for the trial have tolerated the vaccine very well. There were no adverse effects," he added.

2. Oxford vaccine’s ‘double defence’ offers hope

Researchers at the University of Oxford believe they may have a breakthrough in their search for a Covid-19 vaccine after the team discovered that the jab could provide “double protection” against the deadly coronavirus following early stage human trials, according to media reports in the UK.

Blood samples taken from a group of UK volunteers given a dose of the vaccine showed that it stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and “killer T-cells”, a senior source from the trial was quoted by ‘The Daily Telegraph’ as saying.

The discovery is promising because separate studies have suggested that antibodies may fade away within months while T-cells can stay in circulation for years.

3. Moderna expects to start late-stage Covid-19 vaccine trial on July 27

Moderna Inc plans to start a late stage clinical trial for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate on or around July 27, according to its listing for the phase 3 study at clinicaltrials.gov.

Moderna said it will conduct the trial at 87 study locations, all in the United States.

The experimental vaccine will be tested in 30 states and Washington, D.C. Around half of the study locations are in hard-hit states like Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and North and South Carolina.

4. Pfizer, BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine candidates get FDA's 'fast track' status

Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE have said two of their experimental coronavirus vaccine candidates received "fast track" status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is designed to speed up the regulatory review process.

The FDA grants fast track status to speed up the review of new drugs and vaccines that show the potential to address unmet medical needs.

The two candidates to win the designation, BNT162b1 and BNT162b2, are the most advanced of the at least four vaccines being assessed by the companies in ongoing trials in the United States and Germany.

5. AstraZeneca ties up with IQVIA to speed up studies of coronavirus vaccine candidate

Life sciences company IQVIA Holdings Inc said it would collaborate with AstraZeneca Plc to speed up clinical studies of the British drugmaker's potential Covid-19 vaccine in the United States.

The collaboration is part of the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed to accelerate the development of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

AstraZeneca is among the drugmakers farthest along in the race to develop a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19.

6. Zydus begins human trials for potential coronavirus vaccine

Indian pharmaceutical company Zydus said it has started human studies for its potential Covid-19 vaccine. ZyCoV-D, its plasmid DNA vaccine, was found to be safe, immunogenic and well-tolerated in the pre-clinical toxicity studies, Zydus said. In the human trials, Zydus will enrol over 1,000 subjects across multiple clinical study sites in India.

7. Russia coronavirus vaccine latest update

Russia plans to produce 30 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine domestically this year, with the potential to manufacture a further 170 million doses abroad, the head of the country's sovereign wealth fund said. The first human trial of the vaccine, a month-long test on 38 people, ended this week. Researchers concluded that it is safe for use and induces an immune response, though the strength of that response is as yet unclear.

A larger Phase III trial involving several thousand people is expected to begin in August, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) head Kirill Dmitriev.

"We believe that based on the current results it will be approved in Russia in August and in some other countries in September..., making it possibly the first vaccine to be approved in the world," he said.

8. China's CanSino in talks for Phase III vaccine trial overseas

Chinese vaccine developer CanSino Biologics is in talks with Russia, Brazil, Chile and Saudi Arabia to launch a Phase III trial of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine, its co-founder has said.

China's success in driving down Covid-19 infections has made it harder to conduct large-scale vaccine trials, and so far only a few countries have agreed to work with it.

"We are contacting Russia, Brazil, Chile and Saudi Arabia (for the Phase III trial), and it's still in discussion," Qiu Dongxu, executive director and co-founder of CanSino, told an anti-viral drug development conference in Suzhou, in eastern China.

He said its Phase III trial was likely to start "pretty soon," and the company plans to recruit 40,000 participants for the test.

Its Covid-19 candidate, Ad5-nCov, became the first in China to move into human testing in March but is running behind other potential vaccines in terms of trial progress. Two experimental vaccines developed by Sinovac Biotech and a unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) are already approved for Phase III trials.

9. No Covid vaccine before Q1 of 2021, India's parliamentary panel told

Notwithstanding the ambitious target set for its market launch, the Standing Committee on Science and Technology was told on Friday that India will have to wait till at least the first quarter of 2021 to get its vaccine that can treat Covid-19.

Officials cautioned that this is the earliest possible time frame when India can practically have its vaccine.

Interestingly, this development comes closely on the heels of India's foremost medical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in a letter dated July 3, setting a target to get the covaxin vaccine ready by August 15. However, faced with criticism for putting unrealistic pressure, it later clarified saying it was "meant to cut unnecessary red tape, without bypassing any necessary process, and speed up recruitment of participants".

10. Coronavirus vaccine race: Novavax gets $1.6 billion in US funding

The US government has awarded Novavax Inc $1.6 billion to cover testing and manufacturing of a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus in the United States, with the aim of delivering 100 million doses by January. Novavax is somewhat of a dark horse in the race for a coronavirus vaccine. The company was not on the list of vaccine finalists for Warp Speed previously reported by the New York Times that included Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer Inc, J&J and Merck & Co.

Bill Gates warns 'deadlier pandemic' if vaccine goes to 'highest bidders'
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has warned about a deadlier pandemic if successful drugs or a COVID-19 vaccine, when developed, go first to the highest bidders and not reach the common people who need it the most.

"If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidder, instead of to the people and the places where they are most needed, we'll have a longer, more unjust deadlier pandemic," he said. The fear is that once the vaccine is developed, the rich and the powerful people would grab it first.

Read our full coverage on Coronavirus Vaccine

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