Posts tagged with "COVID-19 vaccine"

Shot to be ‘heard’ around the world: Pfizer says its coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective

November 9, 2020

A coronavirus vaccine developed by New York City-based pharmaceutical firm Pfizer is more than 90% effective, according to the first look at data from a late-stage U.S. trial involving nearly 44,000 participants, Politico rerports.

An analysis of 94 trial participants who contracted COVID-19 showed that the vaccine was 94% effective, the company and its partner BioNTech of Germany said in a press release on November 9.

The pair added that they expect to apply to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for an emergency-use authorization before the end of the month, after they have collected sufficient data on the vaccine’s safety.

The better-than-expected result is the first Phase III data from any of the four candidates now in the final stage of testing in the United States.

“I can’t imagine better news on the vaccine front,” Walid Gellad, director for the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh, told Politico.  Not only is it highly effective based on the press release, but there were 90 cases so we don’t have to deal with the skeptics about interim analyses, and there appeared to be no safety signals.”

Others noted that the information Pfizer had released was promising but still incomplete. “We should remain a little cautious, said Michael Head, a senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton in the U.K. “The provisional findings are made available in a press release, and the study is ongoing.”

President Donald Trump, who pushed unsuccessfully for a vaccine by Election Day, cheered the Pfizer result. “STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!” he wrote on Twitter.

Although Ivanka Trump tried to link the new vaccine to the Administration’s Operation Warp Speed, a top scientist for Pfizer told the New York Times that her company had not partnered with the Trump administration’s program meant to speed vaccine development.

President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement congratulating “the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough,” but he cautioned that “the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”

Even if a shot is authorized by late November, it will take many months before vaccination is widespread, Biden noted. “Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year,” he said.

Research contact: @politico

A shot in the dark? Drug companies issue rare joint pledge on vaccine safety

September 9, 2020

On September 7, nine pharmaceutical companies issued a rare joint pledge—intended to reassure the American public about the safety and efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines that currently are under development.

The statement from the top drug companies working on COVID-19 vaccines—including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna—comes amid fears that President Donald Trump will continue to place pressure on the industry to speed up the vaccine approval process without proper oversight, and doubts among the public about taking a vaccine, The Hill reports.

The joint pledge states that the companies will not seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for their vaccines until a rigorous phase 3 clinical trial shows that it is safe and that it works. 

The companies pledged they would “only submit for approval or emergency use authorization after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a Phase 3 clinical study that is designed and conducted to meet requirements of expert regulatory authorities such as FDA.”

The companies said they would “always make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority.”

Highlighting the fears of political interference, Trump on Monday floated the idea of having a vaccine before Election Day on November 3. “We’re going to have a vaccine very soon. Maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I’m talking about,” he said at a news conference.

Trump has put pressure on the FDA before, saying that the “deep state” at the agency was throwing up roadblocks before the agency issued an emergency authorization for a coronavirus treatment known as convalescent plasma.

According to The Hill, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn also has offered reassurances that his agency will base vaccine decisions only on science and not on politics.

But the statement from the pharmaceutical companies is an illustration of how deep the fears are about politicization of the process and the need for companies to try make their own reassurance about science guiding the process.

An NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll last month found that a significant portion of the public (35%) did not intend to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Research contact: @thehill

A glimmer of hope: New vaccine against COVID-19, called PittCoVacc, shows promise

April 6, 2020

It won’t help today’s patients (unless they are rats or mice); but, on April 2, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists announced in a press release that they had produced a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2— the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through an expedited testing process, the vaccine, called the PittCoVacc, could be available for use in a little over a year.

When tested in mice, the vaccine—which is delivered through a fingertip-sized patch, not an injection—produces antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 at quantities thought to be sufficient for neutralizing the virus. Indeed, PittCoVacc generated a surge of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 within two weeks of the microneedle prick.

The researchers were able to act quickly to develop the vaccine because they already had laid the groundwork during earlier coronavirus epidemics: “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. We knew exactly where to fight this new virus,” said co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., associate professor of Surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine. “That’s why it’s important to fund vaccine research. You never know where the next pandemic will come from.”

“Our ability to rapidly develop this vaccine was a result of scientists with expertise in diverse areas of research working together with a common goal,” said co-senior author Louis Falo, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Dermatology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC.

Compared to the experimental mRNA vaccine candidate that just entered clinical trials, the vaccine described in this paper (PittCoVacc, short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine) follows a more established approach, using lab-made pieces of viral protein to build immunity. It’s the same way the current flu shots work.

The researchers also used a novel approach to deliver the drug, called a microneedle array, to increase potency. This array is a fingertip-sized patch of 400 tiny needles that delivers the spike protein pieces into the skin, where the immune reaction is strongest. The patch goes on like a Band-Aid and then the needles—which are made entirely of sugar and the protein pieces—simply dissolve into the skin.

“We developed this to build on the original scratch method used to deliver the smallpox vaccine to the skin, but as a high-tech version that is more efficient and reproducible patient to patient,” Falo said. “And it’s actually pretty painless—it feels kind of like Velcro.”

The system also is highly scalable. The protein pieces are manufactured by a “cell factory”—layers upon layers of cultured cells engineered to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—that can be stacked further to multiply yield.

Purifying the protein also can be done at industrial scale. Mass-producing the microneedle array involves spinning down the protein-sugar mixture into a mold using a centrifuge. Once manufactured, the vaccine can sit at room temperature until it’s needed, eliminating the need for refrigeration during transport or storage.

“For most vaccines, you don’t need to address scalability to begin with,” Gambotto said. “But when you try to develop a vaccine quickly against a pandemic that’s the first requirement.”

Importantly, the SARS-CoV-2 microneedle vaccine maintains its potency even after being thoroughly sterilized with gamma radiation — a key step toward making a product that’s suitable for use in humans.

The authors are now in the process of applying for an investigational new drug approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in anticipation of starting a phase I human clinical trial within the next few months.

“Testing in patients would typically require at least a year and probably longer,” 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.”

Among the additional authors on the study are Eun Kim, Geza Erdos, Ph.D., Shaohua Huang, Thomas Kenniston, Stephen Balmert, Ph.D., Cara Donahue Carey, Michael Epperly, Ph.D., William Klimstra, Ph.D., and Emrullah Korkmaz, Ph.D., all of Pitt; and Bart Haagmans, of Erasmus Medical Center.

Research contact: @UPMCNews