Coronavirus vaccine update: Chinese-backed hackers targeted Moderna

Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s experimental vaccine has entered the final stage of clinical trials.
At present, 25 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in human clinical trials. This raises the hope that a vaccines could contribute to ending the pandemic, which has so far infected over 16.4 million people worldwide and claimed over 650,000 lives. More than 150 possible vaccines are being developed and tested around the world, including in India, Britain, China, the US, Russia and Israel, to try to stop the pandemic. Among the coronavirus vaccine candidates are in human clinical trial stage at present are those of Moderna, AstraZeneca Plc, BioNTech, Novavax, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals. Although it is still unclear if any of these vaccines will ultimately prove effective against the virus, Britain and other developed countries are already investing in the vaccines to ensure there is enough manufacturing capacity to deliver any successful candidate. 25 coronavirus vaccine candidates, including those of Moderna, AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Novavax, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics, Bharat Biotech and Inovio, are in human trials.

Coronavirus treatment: Updates on coronavirus vaccine/drug development:

1. Russia claims its coronavirus vaccine is ready for use

Russia plans to register a coronavirus vaccine by Aug. 10-12, clearing the way for what its backers say would be the world’s first official approval of an inoculation against the epidemic.

The drug developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund may be approved for civilian use within three to seven days of registration by regulators, according to a person familiar with the process, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

The Gamaleya vaccine is expected to get conditional registration in August, meaning it will still need to conduct trials on another 1,600 people, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said in a televised meeting of officials with President Vladimir Putin Wednesday. Production should begin in September, she said.

2. Coronavirus vaccine update: Chinese-backed hackers targeted Moderna

Last week, the US Justice Department made public an indictment of two Chinese nationals accused of spying on the United States, including three unnamed U.S.-based targets involved in medical research to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The indictment states the Chinese hackers “conducted reconnaissance” against the computer network of a Massachusetts biotech firm known to be working on a coronavirus vaccine in January.

Moderna, which is based in Massachusetts and announced its coronavirus vaccine candidate in January, confirmed to Reuters that the company had been in contact with the FBI and was made aware of the suspected “information reconnaissance activities” by the hacking group mentioned in last week’s indictment.

ALSO READ: The vaccine race

3. Will reserve enough coronavirus vaccine doses for Parsis: SII CEO

"More than enough" doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca will be reserved for the Parsi community, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the vaccine's local manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII), has said.

Poonawalla, however, did not specify the quantity of the doses that will be kept for the community, which is grappling with shrinking population.

3. Oxford coronavirus update

Serum Institute of India has asked approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) to start the phase II and III trial of the Covid-19 vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, in India.

Known as AZD1222, the vaccine candidate has been made by the Jenner Institute, a part of the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford. The formulation is backed by by AstraZeneca PLC, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company. AstraZeneca has joined hands with Serum Institute of India to produce the potential vaccine.

SII will launch the vaccine under the brand name of Covishield if the trials are successful.

4. India coronavirus vaccine update

Two Indian candidates for a vaccine targeting the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2 have been granted permission for Phase I and II trials in India. One is being developed by Cadila Healthcare, and the other by Bharat Biotech, which has now tied up with private health care labs for human trials, as well as some public hospitals. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi gave a 30-year-old man the first dose of the Bharat Biotech candidate, called Covaxin, last week. 

6. Coronavirus vaccine Covaxin update

Even as Phase I human trials of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin are on at most of the 12 sites selected by ICMR across the country, the Post-Graduate Institute (PGI) of Medical Sciences, Rohtak, has claimed “encouraging” results from first part of the tests.

Earlier this week, AIIMS, Delhi, administered the first dose of Covaxin to a 30-year-old man. According to CTRI, the Covaxin phase I and II trials are expected to take one year and three months.

7. Coronavirus vaccine update: Pfizer-BioNTech potential Covid-19 vaccine shows promise

German biotech firm BioNTech and US drugmaker Pfizer also reported on July 20 that their experimental Covid-19 vaccine was safe and induced an immune response in patients. The companies said the data also demonstrated an induction of high level of T-cell responses against the novel coronavirus. Pfizer is hoping to seek regulatory approval for a vaccine "as early as October" this year and have a vaccine on the market by year end.

A "best case scenario" would be approval before year end and a vaccine by year end, according to Pfizer.

8. 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.

9. Coronavirus vaccine race: Pfizer, BioNTech start late stage clinical trial of Covid vaccine

US-based Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech have announced the start of a late stage clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by the two companies.

The Phase 2/3 study will involve up to 30,000 participants between 18 and 85 years of age, the two companies said on Monday.

The vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, recently received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Fast Track designation, encodes an optimised SARS-CoV-2 full length spike glycoprotein (S), which is the target of virus neutralising antibodies.

10. Chinese coronavirus vaccine shows promise in animal tests

The phase-I human clinical trial of India's first indigenously-developed vaccine against novel coronavirus, Covaxin, began at the AIIMS on Friday with the first dose of the injection given to a man, who is in his 30s.

Already, over 3,500 volunteers have registered themselves for the trial at AIIMS since last Saturday, of whom the screening of at least 22 people is underway, said Dr Sanjay Rai, Professor at the Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS and the principal investigator of the study.

"The first volunteer, a resident of Delhi, was screened two days ago and all his health parameters were found to be within the normal range. He also does not have any co-morbid conditions.

"The first dose of 0.5 ml intramuscular injection was given to him around 1.30 pm. No immediate side-effects have been observed so far. He was under observation for two hours and will be monitored for the next seven days," Rai said.

When will we have a coronavirus vaccine?

A vaccine would normally take years, if not decades, to develop. Researchers hope to achieve the same amount of work in only a few months.

Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become widely available by mid-2021, about 12-18 months after the new virus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, first emerged.

That would be a huge scientific feat and there are no guarantees it will work.
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