UVA Health researchers working on intranasal COVID-19 vaccine

Credit: Mayuresh Abhyankar
Credit: Mayuresh Abhyankar(WVIR)
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 10:32 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A team of researchers with UVA Health say they are seeing positive results coming out of their intranasal COVID-19 vaccine.

Mayuresh Abhyankar and his team have been working on an intranasal vaccine for amebiasis for six years.

“We have optimized adjuvant formulation for this vaccine, which will soon be tested in humans, so we are very close to start human clinical trials,” Abhyankar said.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Abhyankar and his team changed a small part of the vaccine to try and target COVID-19.

“We just changed the antigen. So instead of the amebiasis antigen, we swapped the antigen with COVID antigen and then immunized mice with the adjuvant COVID vaccine,” Abhyankar said. “We saw 100% protection in mice, that was pretty exciting. That’s where we started with the COVID-19 story.”

Abhyankar says there are many advantages to an intranasal COVID-19 vaccine: “The first one I can think of is it’s easy to administer, and the second most important advantage is we are eliciting the immune response at a very specific local site, which is exactly at the site of the infection,” he said.

Even though this test vaccine has been effective in mice, Abhyankar says there’s a long way to go before it reaches a clinical trial.

“First we have to show that the vaccine is very effective and safe using mouse studies, and once we complete the mouse studies we have to show that the vaccine is effective, it’s eliciting a robust immune response in monkeys and also all of the components in this vaccine are very safe in monkeys,” Abhyankar said. “Once those studies are completed, then the authorities will give a green signal to move ahead with clinical studies. There are a lot of things involved before we move to phase 1.”

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