Vaccines to protect against Covid-19, the new coronavirus infection
Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, affects people all over the world. However, companies and research institutes are developing protective vaccines.
195 vaccine projects against SARS-CoV-2, which has only been known since about New Year's Day, have been started within a short period of time: The World Health Organization WHO currently counts 187 (list from 21.09.2020). In addition, there are at least eight other projects that it has not yet listed. These are projects of the following companies and institutes:
- the start-up Prime Vector Technologies (PVT) (Tübingen)
- the start-up baseclick (Neuried near Munich)
- the Vienna-based company Viravaxx and the University of Vienna
- the Vienna-based company Cebina with the University of Pécs (Hungary)
- the Swiss company Alpha-O Peptides
- the US company Sorrento Therapeutics
- the Iranian company Imam Khomeini's Directive
- the US company Elixirgen Therapeutics with its RNA vaccine EXG-5003
Several companies have explicitly offered cooperation in the development of Covid 19 vaccines. GSK offered its adjuvants (i.e. potency-enhancing vaccine components) to all companies that could use them for their vaccines. This has led to a number of collaborations.
Status of vaccine development
Each project for a Covid 19 vaccine comprises seven parts, some of which are running in parallel. They are shown in the diagram below:
Until a few years ago, it would have taken 15 to 20 years from virus analysis to approval of the vaccine. New technologies and previous experience with vaccine projects against related viruses (see below) are making an enormous acceleration possible. This is shown by the interim results that some companies and research groups have reported for their projects. Many have already started testing with volunteers or plan to do so in the coming months. This is shown in the following table (see below for explanations of the vaccine types):
|Company / Research institute||Vaccine||Type of vaccine||Testing with volunteers||Production||Financial support||Sources|
|Oxford University (UK) / AstraZeneca Life Science||ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222)||Vector virus vaccine (based on an adenovirus that cannot replicate in human cells)||in Phase III in Brazil (since end of June) and the USA (since the beginning of September)||by AstraZeneca, Serum Institute of India, Halix, Pall Life Science, Cobra Biologics, Oxford Biomedica, SK Bioscience (South Korea), R-Pharm (Russia + Germany), Albany Molecular (USA) in future also in the British Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovations Centre (VMIC)||CEPI, UK's Natl. Institute for Health Research, UK Research & Innovation, BARDA (USA)||The Guardian Online, Message Merck, The Lancet, The Telegraph, inews, Live Science, BBC, BBC, clinicaltrials.gov, Statnews, Fiercepharma Reuters, Oxford University, Reuters, Fierce Pharma|
|Wuhan Institute of Biological Products / Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences / Sinopharm||inactivated Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (COVID-19) vaccine (Vero cells)||Vaccine with inactivated virus||in Phase III in China, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain||tbd||n / a||Clinical Trials Arena, ChiCTR, CGTN, Reuters|
|Sinovac Biotech||CoronaVac||Vaccine with inactivated virus||in phase III in Brazil since July 21, in partnership with Instituto Butantan; phase III study in Bangladesh approved from August||tbd||n / a||Pr.mitt. Sinovac, register entry Clinicaltrials.gov, CGTN, Fierce Pharma, clinicaltrials.gov, Reuters, Bangkok Post|
|Moderna (USA)||mRNA-1273||mRNA-based vaccine||in phase III in the USA since 27 July||by Lonza (in Portsmouth, New Hampshire [USA], and in Visp, Switzerland), bottling at Catalent (USA)||CEPI, BARDA||ABC News, Bloomberg, Forbes, Reuters, Pr.mitt. Moderna, Pr.mitt. Moderna, Fierce Pharma, FoxSanAntonio, The Shareholder|
|BioNTech / Pfizer // BioNTech / Fosun Pharma||BNT162b2||mRNA-based vaccine||Phase II/III study of BioNTech / Pfizer started on 27 July in the USA, later to be extended to Argentina and Germany (approval on 7 September 2020); first study of Fosun Pharma approved in China||in Mainz / Idar-Oberstein / Marburg / Puurs (Belgium) / Kalamazoo (Michigan, USA) / Andover (Massachusetts, USA) / Chesterfield (Missouri, USA), also production step at Polymun (Austria)||Horizon 2020 InnovFin, European Fund for Strategic Investments, BMBF||Pr.mitt. BioNTech, Pr.mitt. BioNTech/Pfizer, The Wall Street Journal Entry EU Clinical Trials Register, Pr.mitt. Pfizer, Pr.mitt. BioNTech/Pfizer, Crain's Detroit Business, Pr.mitt. BioNTech, Pr.Mitt. BioNTech/Pfizer, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, Wiener Zeitung, Pr.mitt. BioNTech/Pfizer, Pr.mitt. BioNTech|
|Beijing Institute of Biological Products / Sinopharm||tbd||Dead vaccine (inactivated viruses)||in phase III||in own plant||n / a||WHO, Reuters, Asharq Al-Awsat|
|Natl. Gamaleya Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology (Russia), Ministry of Health of Russia||Gam-COVID-Vac||Vector virus vaccine (Adenovirus)||in Phase III trial in Russia since 31.08.||n / a||n / a||Sputnik Germany, TASS, AA|
|CanSino Biologics (China) / Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, Academy of Military Medical Sciences, PLA of China||Ad5-nCoV||Vector virus vaccine (Adenovirus type 5)||in Phase III trials in Pakistan and Russia; trial in Saudi Arabia planned; planned trial in Canada cancelled||with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) (cell line HEK293) in Montreal (Canada)||Government of Canada (for production in Canada)||Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Register entry Clinicaltrials.govPr.mitt. Natl. Research Councel Canada, Hindustan Times, Reuters, TrialSiteNews|
|Janssen (Johnson&Johnson)||Ad26.COV2-S||Vector virus vaccine||in Phase III trial since 23 September in the USA, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Ukraine and the Philippines. Meanwhile, the phase II study is ongoing in the Netherlands, Germany (UKE, Charité Berlin, University Hospital Rostock) and Spain.||in own plants in Bümpliz (Switzerland) and Leiden (Netherlands) / by Catalent Biologics (USA) / supply of Emergent BioSolutions (USA) / supply of vaccine for clinical studies by Vibalogics (Cuxhaven)||US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)||News Johnson&Johnson, Article Johnson&Johnson, Langenthaler Tagblatt, Biopharma Reporter, Biopharma Reporter, FiercePharma, Pr.mitt. Vibalogics Pr.mitt. Janssen, Biopharma Reporter, S&P Global Market Intelligence, MOPO, clinicaltrials.gov, Pr.mitt. Janssen|
|Imperial College London / VacEquity Global Health||n / a||RNA-based vaccine (with self-proliferating RNA)||in Phase II since July 17.||tbd; several manufacturers are planned||Government of UK, COVID-19 Response Fund of the Alumni of Imperial College London, Morningside Ventures (Hong Kong)||Imperial College, Imperial College, Thomson Reuters Foundation News; Imperial College London, Imperial College London, Imperial College London|
|Novavax||NVX-CoV2373||Inactivated vaccine with genetically engineered virus antigen (nanoparticle technology) and saponin-based adjuvant||since August in Phase II in Australia, USA and South Africa||by Emergent BioSolutions (USA) and in the future by subsidiary Praha Vaccines (Czech Republic)||CEPI, US Government (Operation Warp Speed)||Pr.mitt. Novavax, clinicaltrials.gov, Pr.mitt. Novavax, quarterly report Novavax, ABC News, Pr.mitt. Novavax, Handelsblatt|
|AnGes (Japan)||AG0301-COVID19||DNA-based vaccine with adjuvant||according Media reports in Phase I/II since 30 June||through Takara Bio Inc. (Japan)||n / a||Japan Times, Japan Times, clinicaltrials.gov|
|Zydus Cadila Healthcare (India)||ZyCoV-D||DNA-based vaccine (plasmid)||in Phase I/II since 14.07.2020, in Singapore||n / a||n / a||CTRI, News18|
|Inovio (USA)||INO-4800||DNA-based vaccine administered by electroporation||since 15 July in Korea in phase I/II study; phase II/III study planned in the USA||by Richter-Helm BioLogics (Germany), VGXI (USA), Ology Bioservices (USA)||CEPI, US Department of Defense||Inovio, Inovio, Register entry Clinicaltrials.gov, Pr.mitt. Inovio|
|Arcturus Therapeutics (USA) / DukeNUS Medical School (Singapore)||COVID-19 RIGID (ARCT-021)||mRNA-based vaccine (self-replicating mRNA)||Phase I/II study in Singapore since 04.08.||by Catalent (USA)||n / a||PM Arcturus Therapeutics, quarterly report Arcturus Therapeutics, Pr.mitt. DukeNUS, clinicaltrials.gov|
|Instituto Finlay de Vacunas (Cuba)||FINLAY-FR-1 anti SARS-CoV-2||Inactivated vaccine with protein antigen and adjuvant||Phase I/II study in Cuba since August 24||n / a||n / a||Cuban Public Registry of the Ensayos Clinicos|
|Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems / Natl. Scientific Center for Phthisiopulmonology of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan)||QazCovid-in||Vaccine with inactivated SARS-CoV2||in Phase I/II trial in Kazakhstan since 01.09.||n / a||n / a||clinicaltrials.gov|
|Sanofi / GSK||n / a||Inactivated vaccine with genetically engineered (with baculoviruses) antigen and adjuvant||in Phase I/II trial in the USA since 03.09.||in own plants and at Unigen (Japan)||US Government||Pr.mitt. Sanofi/GSK, Pr.mitt. Sanofi, clinicaltrials.gov|
|Institute of Medical Biology / Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences||n / a||Vaccine with inactivated virus||Phase I in China||tbd||n / a||WHO|
|CureVac||CVnCoV||mRNA-based vaccine||Phase I study in Germany and Belgium; phase II in preparation||in its own plant in Tübingen; Tesla will build mobile production facilities||CEPI, EU Commission, Federal Government (KfW Bank)||Pr.mitt. CureVac, border echo, pr.mitt. CureVac, pr.mitt. CureVac, dpa, pr.mitt. CureVac, Fierce Pharma, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung|
|Clover Biopharmaceuticals / GSK / Dynavax||SCB-2019||Inactivated vaccine (antigen: genetically engineered trimeric spike protein; adjuvant: either from GSK or Dynavax)||Phase I since mid-June in Australia||in own plant in China||CEPI||Canberra Times, Reuters|
|Genexine / Binex / GenNBio / Int. Vaccine Inst. / Korea Advanced Inst. of Science & Technology (KAIST) / Pohang Univ. of Science and Technology (POSTECH)||GX-19||DNA-based vaccine||according Media reports in phase I in South Korea since 19 June||through Binex||n / a||inquirer.net, Korea Biomedical Review, Reuters|
|Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical / Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences||n / a||Subunit vaccine (antigen and adjuvant)||according WHO in Phase I since mid-June||n / a||n / a||CNBCTV18|
|Walvax Biotechnology / People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Sciences / Suzhou Abogen Biosciences||ARCoV||mRNA-based vaccine||in Phase I since July 2 in Adelaide, Australia||n / a||n / a||China Global Television Network Online|
|Vaxine (Australia) / Medytox / Flinders University (Australia)||COVAX-19||Inactivated vaccine with genetically engineered virus protein||in Phase I (conducted in China) completed; start of Phase II planned for September||n / a||n / a||ABC News, News.com|
|University of Queensland / GSK / Dynavax / CSL||n / a||Inactivated vaccine with genetically engineered viral antigen and adjuvant||in Phase I since 13 July||with Cytiva and CLS||CEPI, Queensland State Government, Federal Government of Australia, Paul Ramsay Foundation, Newcrest Mining, CSL||UQ News, ABC News, Canberra Times, pipelinereview.com, 9news, Advance Queensland|
|Bharat Biotech / Indian Council of Medical Research / Natl. Institute of Virology (India)||Covaxin||Vector virus vaccine||in Phase I in India since 14.07.2020||n / a||n / a||Pr.mitt. Bharat Biotech, expresspharma.in|
|Medicago (Canada)||n / a||Inactivated vaccine with virus-like particles from antigens produced in plants, in the test with two different adjuvants from GSK and Dynavax||in Phase I since 14.07.2020, in Canada||n / a||n / a||Medicago, Financial News|
|Vector Virology Institute (Russia)||n / a||Inactivated vaccine with peptide antigens||in phase I since 27.07., in Russia||n / a||n / a||Clinicaltrials Arena|
|Institute Pasteur / Themis (an MSD company) / Univ. of Pittburgh||n / a||Vector virus vaccine (based on measles virus)||Phase I study in France (later also Belgium) since 10 August.||n / a||n / a||Clinicaltrials.gov|
|ReiThera (Italy) / Leukocare (Germany) / Univercells (Belgium)||GRAd-COV2||Vector virus vaccine (gorilla adeonoviral vector)||in phase I since 24.08., in Italy||in Belgium with Univercells||Italian Ministry of Research with the CNR and the Lazio Region||Pr.mitt. ReiThera/Leukocare/Univercells, Rainews, BioSpace|
|West China Hospital, Sichuan University||recombinant SARS-CoV-2 vaccine (Sf9 cell)||Inactivated vaccine with genetically engineered protein antigen and adjuvant||Phase I trial in China since 28 August.||n / a||n / a||Chinese Clinical Trial Registry|
|Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy / Xiamen University||n / a||Vector virus vaccine based on influenza viruses (intranally applicable spray)||in Phase I trial in China since approx. 01.09.||n / a||n / a|
|COVAXX||UB-612 COVID-19 vaccine||Peptide-based vaccine (multitope vaccine)||in Phase I study in Taiwan since approx. 01.09.; Phase I/II studies in the USA and Phase II/III studies in Brazil planned||n / a||n / a||clinicaltrials.gov, Pr.Mitt. COVAXX; Pr.Mitt. COVAXX|
|Symvivo (Canada)||bacTRL||Vaccine with genetically modified bifidobacteria||Study approved but not yet started||n / a||n / a||Symvivo|
|Kentucky Bioprocessing (USA)||KBP-COVID-19||Inactivated vaccine with genetically engineered antigens (produced in tobacco)||Study approved but not yet started||n / a||n / a||clinicaltrials.gov, Bloomberg, clinicaltrials.gov|
|Vaxart||n / a||Vector virus vaccine applicable as a tablet (based on an adenovirus)||Phase I planned from the end of September in the USA||n / a||US Government (Operation Warpspeed)||bioRXiv; Pr.mitt. Vaxart|
|German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF) / Univ. Munich / Univ. Marburg / UKE||n / a||Vector virus vaccine based on MVA viruses||planned from end of September at UKE (University Medical Center Eppendorf, Hamburg)||at IDT Biologika (Dessau)||BMBF (supports production and study capacity)||Pr.mitt. of the consortium, Pr.Mitt. IDT Biologika, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, Hamburger Morgenpost|
|University Hospital Tübingen||P/T-pVAC-SARS-CoV-2||Inactivated vaccine with SARS-CoV-2 HLA-DR peptides||Phase I planned (Tübingen)||n / a||State Government of Baden-Württemberg||State Government of Baden-Württemberg, clinicaltrials.gov|
|Chulalongkorn University (Thailand)||n / a||mRNA-based vaccine||Start according to media report planned for September||n / a||n / a||Fortune|
|IAVI and MSD||n / a||Vector virus vaccine based on the virus rVSV||planned for the second half of 2020||tbd||BARDA (USA)||Pr.mitt. MSD|
Requirements for a corona vaccine
An ideal corona vaccine would provide complete and lifelong protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection with few and mild side effects for anyone who is vaccinated with it. However, no vaccine will be able to fully achieve this ideal goal.
For EU countries, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for the approval of Covid-19 vaccines, but the authorities in the Member States play a key role in the approval process. They have previously advised vaccine developers and approved clinical trials with vaccine candidates if these were to be carried out in their country.
The EMA, like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), insists first and foremost that Covid-19 vaccines are safe and this has been convincingly proven in large clinical trials. The FDA has announced that it will require an efficacy rate of at least 50 percent, which means that a larger group of vaccinated people will only infect half as many people with the disease as a comparable group of unvaccinated people. The EMA has not yet committed itself in this regard.
A shortening of the study program for Covid-19 vaccines, i.e. approval already with the results of Phase II studies, is not an option for either regulatory authority. However, the FDA has indicated that it may grant a special approval for a vaccine based on positive Phase III data in an expedited procedure in the event of a pandemic. The EMA has announced that it will give priority to all approval procedures for Covid 19 vaccines or therapeutics and has already done so for a first Covid 19 medicine. However, at the beginning of September there was a discussion in the USA and UK whether approval or emergency use of vaccines should be considered even without available Phase III results.
On 8th September 2020, nine Western pharmaceutical companies, which are already testing their vaccines with volunteers, also issued a statement in which they announced that they will not compromise on safety and ethical standards when testing their vaccines and will only apply for approval on the basis of Phase III results.
The EMA, the FDA and other medicines authorities associated in ICMRA have agreed on a detailed catalogue of requirements for the phase III studies. According to this catalogue, several thousand participants are to be recruited for each of these trials, including people over 55 years of age and those with concomitant diseases. Participants who have not yet been infected with SARS-CoV-2 will be recruited primarily, and only their results will be used to calculate the degree of reliability of the vaccine. Nevertheless, the vaccine will also be tested in people who have already survived SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is to ensure that there is no safety problem after approval if such persons are also vaccinated. Whether or not pregnant women are eligible to participate in a particular Phase III study will be decided individually for each vaccine candidate, based primarily on animal studies. All Phase III studies will be subject to interim evaluations in order to identify potential risks or insufficient efficacy at an early stage.
Testing will reveal which vaccine candidates come how close to the target values for an ideal vaccine. This, along with the expected month of regulatory submissions, will be a key factor in determining which vaccine projects the international funding will focus on. The WHO is currently setting up an advisory committee to evaluate the results of animal experiments and interim results from clinical studies.
Development and production of Covid-19 vaccines in Germany
Germany is one of the countries with a particularly large number of projects for vaccines against Covid-19, as shown on the map opposite. You can also view or download it as a PDF file.
In detail, the following companies and research institutions are involved:
- the company CureVac (Tübingen)
- the companies BioNTech / Pfizer (Mainz, Idar Oberstein, Berlin, in future also Marburg), two projects
- the company Leukocare (Planegg) with ReiThera (Italy) and Univercell (Belgium) - vector virus vaccine that has been tested in Italy with volunteers since 24.08.
- the start-up Prime Vector Technologies (PVT) (Tübingen) with a vector virus vaccine
- the company ARTES Biotechnology (Langenfeld [Rhineland])
- the German Centre for Infection Research (Braunschweig) / Univ. Munich / Univ. Marburg / UKE Hamburg / IDT Biologika (Dessau) - MVA-based vaccine to be tested with volunteers from the end of September
- the German Centre for Infection Research / CanVirex (Braunschweig / Basel, Switzerland) - measles vaccine based on the measles virus
- the University Hospital of Tübingen (peptide vaccine)
- the start-up baseclick (Neuried near Munich)
In addition, the following companies and research institutes provide support in vaccine development and production:
- Vibalogics (Cuxhaven): produces component for Janssen's vaccine
- CEVEC Pharmaceuticals (Cologne): produces components for unnamed manufacturer
- Richter-Helm BioLogics (Hamburg): produces DNA material for Inovio (USA)
- the company Daiichi Sankyo Europe (Pfaffenhofen near Munich) and the University of Munich (Department of Pharmacy) contribute to the vaccine project of Daiichi-Sankyo (Japan) and the University of Tokyo
- Sanofi (Frankfurt a.M.): will fill vaccine from the cooperation between Sanofi and GSK
- R-Pharm Germany (Illertissen), subsidiary of the Russian company R-Pharm: will produce vaccine from AstraZeneca under licence
- Merck (Darmstadt): supports production of the vaccine by Oxford University/AstraZeneca and Baylor College (University of Texas, USA)
- University of Gießen: participates in the OpenCorona consortium (lead: Karolinska Institute, Sweden), which is developing a DNA-based vaccine
- Tropical Institute of the University of Tübingen: will test inactivated vaccine of the Danish-Dutch-German PREVENT-nCoV consortium
In addition, plans are being pursued at the University Hospital in Tübingen to develop a vector virus vaccine (with sedna viruses) against Covid-19, which can be administered as a nasal spray. However, the project leaders are expecting a development time of at least four years before the vaccine can be approved; and this only if funding can be found for the project.
When can a vaccine be expected?
How quickly vaccination campaigns can be started depends not only on the speed of vaccine development, testing and approval, but also on production capacities. Therefore, it is not decisive which vaccine reaches approval first, but that as many vaccines as possible reach approval and can be produced using many production facilities.
First companies and research institutes have already announced to expand their production capacities for a Covid-19 vaccine. The manufacturers Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Kentucky BioProcessing, Moderna/Lonza, BioNTech/Pfizer as well as Oxford University, the company Serum Institute of India, AstraZeneca and the consortium ReiThera/Leukocare/Univercells will also produce their vaccines on an industrial scale while the testing with volunteers is still ongoing - even at the risk of having to dispose of the produced goods if the study results turn out negative. In mid-May, CureVac announced that it had already produced larger quantities of the major component of its active substance (mRNA) - although testing with volunteers has not even begun.
Other companies which do not have their own Covid 19 vaccine have offered to support the production of vaccines by other companies, such as Takeda of Japan.
In the UK, the establishment of the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovations Centre in Oxfordshire is being accelerated. This non-commercial facility is to produce a vaccine against Covid-19 from the end of 2021. It is partly funded by the government, with the companies Janssen, MSD and Cytiva as supporters.
The availability of filling equipment and puncture vials was identified as a possible bottleneck for supply. For this reason, the German government, for example, wants to support the expansion of such filling plants (in addition to vaccine development) with up to 250 million euros. As far as glassware is concerned, three major suppliers and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) (see below) have promised sufficient capacity.
The targets for production are high. For example, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) plans to produce 1 billion vaccine doses. Sanofi and GSK also plan to produce 1 billion vaccine doses. The same quantity, and this annually, is also the goal of Moderna and Lonza. CureVac is already able to supply several hundred million doses per year with its existing production plant, and another plant is yet to be built. AstraZeneca plans to deliver 30 million vaccine doses to the UK and 300 million doses to the US as early as September and October 2020 respectively.
Several manufacturers have announced that they will supply their vaccines against Covid-19 on a no-profit basis as long as the pandemic lasts; specifically AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer (with BioNTech) and Janssen (subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson). The price should therefore be based on the costs incurred by the producer himself.
The "Inclusive Vaccine Alliance" - a coalition of the governments of France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands announced on June 3, 2020 - wants to work to ensure that vaccines are developed even faster and (wherever possible) produced at locations in the EU. These vaccines will then be available at affordable conditions throughout the EU, as well as in poorer countries such as Africa. The aim is to work towards this goal with a joint strategy and joint investments and is open for other countries to join in. The alliance has also already concluded a supply agreement with one company.
Types of vaccines
The companies and research institutes are working towards different vaccines. Most of their projects are aimed at one of the following three types of vaccines:
You can also download this chart as a PDF file.
Live vaccines with vector viruses: Several projects are based on well known, harmless viruses, such as the "Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara" (MVA), the adenovirus serotype 26 or the virus from measles vaccine. Such so-called vector viruses can multiply in humans without causing disease. It is also known how they can be produced in large quantities in cell cultures. Researchers are now adding one or more genes for surface proteins of SARS-CoV-2, which "disguises" some vector viruses as they themselves carry these proteins on their surface and can thus make the immune system believe they are infected with Covid-19. Other vector viruses do not look like SARS-CoV-2, but induce the production of SARS-CoV-2 proteins in cells into which they have entered. In both cases, this leads to the establishment of an immune protection that can also fend off a real infection - this is the plan. In each case, the first approved Ebola vaccines, the first dengue vaccine and other experimental vaccines have also been developed based on a vector virus. Vector virus vaccines are now being developed by Janssen, the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca, the IAVI / MSD cooperation and the ReiThera / Leukocare / Univercells consortium, for example.
Inactivated vaccines with viral proteins: These vaccines either contain selected viral proteins (e.g. Novavax, Greffex, the University of Queensland, UMN Pharma (subsidiary of Shionogi) and Sanofi / GSK); or they contain all the material of inactivated SARS-CoV-2 viruses (e.g. Beijing Institute of Biological Products / Sinopharm). Thus, they are essentially based on long-proven technology: a large number of approved vaccines are composed in this way; for example, those against hepatitis B or influenza. However, it may be easier to produce large quantities of vaccine units quickly with other vaccines. However, this will only become apparent when the time comes.
mRNA/DNA-based vaccines: These vaccines contain selected genes of the virus in the form of mRNA (= messenger RNA) or DNA. After injection, these genes are supposed to induce the formation of (harmless) viral proteins in the body, which in turn, as with a conventional vaccine, build up the immune protection. Such mRNA- and DNA-based vaccines have the advantage that many injection doses can be produced very quickly. However, no vaccine against any disease is yet available on the market. The companies and institutes developing such vaccines against Covid-19 include CureVac, BioNTech, Moderna, Inovio, Arcturus Therapeutics, LineaRx/Takis, AnGes, Translate Bio with Sanofi, eTheRNA and the Thai National Vaccine Institute with Chulalongkorn University; the OpenCorona consortium led by the Swedish Karolinska Institute and involving the University of Giessen is also developing a DNA-based vaccine.
Forms of application
There are also differences in the forms of application. Although most projects are aimed at injectable vaccines, there are exceptions:
- The Galilee Research Institute (MIGAL) and MigVax (both in Israel) are working on an inactivated vaccine (a subunit vaccine with chimeric antigens) that is given into the mouth to act on immune cells in the mouth and throat.
- Argentina's National Scientific and Technical Research Councel (CONICET) is also working on an oral inactivated vaccine
- The company Vaxart (USA) is working on a vector virus vaccine that can be administered as a room temperature stable tablet with release in the small intestine.
- Altimmune's vaccine will be nasal, like a previously developed influenza vaccine of the company.
- The companies Bharat Biotech International and FluGen as well as the University of Wisconsin-Madison (India/USA/USA) also intend to develop a nasal vaccine.
- A vaccine based on genetically modified bifidobacteria from the Canadian company Symvivo is also planned for nasal application.
- The mRNA-based vaccine, which is being developed by the Belgian company eTheRNA in cooperation with EpiVax, Nexelis, REPROCELL and the Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination at the University of Antwerp, will also be applied nasally.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
Several vaccine projects are financially supported by CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. These are the projects of:
- CureVac(Tübingen, Germany)
- Inovio (USA) with the Wistar Institute (USA) and Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology (China)
- Moderna(USA) with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
- Novavax (USA)
- University of Queensland (Australia) with the companies Dynavax and GSK, the adjuvantsAdjuvants(1)
- University of Oxford (UK)
- Institut Pasteur, the company Themis (subsidiary of MSD) and the University of Pittsburg (France / Austria / USA)
- University of Hong Kong (China)
- Clover Biopharmaceuticals Australia (subsidiary of Sichuan Clover Biopharmaceuticals, China)
product development partnerships
Product Development Partnerships (PDP) are alliances that organize joint projects between foundations, governmental and aid organizations, research groups and companies. The funds provided by the donors in a PDP are usually awarded to companies or research institutions in the form of fixed-term grants. PDPs can be used to develop medicines that would not be economically feasible for a single company or for which rapidly available funding is required. This is because they ensure that the associated costs and economic risks are spread over the shoulders of several partners. This has already proved successful for new medicines against malaria, tuberculosis and sleeping sickness.
In conjunction with CEPI, GSK is also offering to contribute its proprietary adjuvant technology for vaccines to projects for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. In addition to the aforementioned collaboration with the University of Queensland, GSK has also entered into collaborations with the Chinese vaccine developers Clover Biopharmaceuticals and Innovax Biotech as well as other companies and research institutes.
CEPI has also arranged for an early order of puncture vials for the filling of the finished vaccines.
CEPI is a Product Development Partnership funded by Norway, Canada, Germany (Federal Ministry of Education and Research), Japan, Australia and others, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. It was founded in 2017 to coordinate, advance and financially support vaccine projects against major epidemics or pandemics.
Which is what?
Coronaviruses: Family of viruses that infect humans or animals. It includes the pathogens that caused SARS in 2002/2003, MERS, several types of colds and, of course, the currently rampant SARS-CoV-2 virus.
SARS-CoV-2: name given in February 2020 to the pathogen causing the current pandemic. It is often simply called "novel coronavirus". The abbreviation stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2.
Covid-19: Fortunately, not every person infected with SARS-CoV-2 falls ill. Those who show symptoms after infection with the new pathogen suffer from the respiratory disease Covid-19, which is named after "coronavirus disease" and the year of its first appearance, 2019.
Will a tuberculosis vaccination against Covid-19 help?
It is possible that other vaccines might be able to contribute to the protection against infection, although they were not developed against corona viruses: Tuberculosis vaccines. The idea behind them: Vaccinations increase the general immune defence against germs and could therefore also help people to fend off SARS-CoV-2 or at least not to fall ill with it so severely.
The suitability of the old tuberculosis vaccine BCG will be tested at clinics in Nijmegen and Utrecht (Netherlands). This vaccine has not been used in Germany for a long time.
In Germany, the companies Vakzine Projekt Management (Germany) and Serum Institute of India are conducting studies to test the newer Tuberculosis vaccine VPM1002, which has not yet been approved because the last studies against Tuberculosis are still ongoing. The Covid-19 studies are being carried out at several German hospitals with elderly people and with health care workers. The vaccine was originally developed at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin.
(1) are 'potentiators' for vaccines, which can, among other things, make it possible that considerably less viral protein per vaccine injection is sufficient for immunisation or that more injection doses can be produced with a given amount of viral protein produced.