Griffith University researchers on the road to COVID-19 vaccine

Griffith University researchers have joined forces with scientists from Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL), a leading vaccines manufacturing company based in Hyderabad, India to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

Professor Suresh Mahalingam

They aim to develop a live attenuated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine or COVID-19 vaccine using the latest codon de-optimisation technology. Using this technology, they will make changes to the virus’s genome to decrease replication efficiency in human cells and rendering it harmless.

“This technology is promising for developing a live-attenuated vaccine for prophylactic, active, single dose immunisation against coronavirus in humans, with an enhanced safety profile,” said Professor Suresh Mahalingam from Menzies Health Institute Queensland and leader of the Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics (EVIT) group.

The vaccine is expected to provide long-lasting immunity against SARS-CoV-2 following a single immunisation and cross-protection against other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS-CoV-1.

“As the vaccine will be live-attenuated, it is expected to be highly effective by providing a strong cellular and antibody immune responses against the virus,’’ Professor Mahalingam said.

“It will mimic the infection of the real virus but cannot cause disease. And what’s really fantastic about this vaccine is that it can induce all arms of the immune response.”

He said the other benefit of a live-attenuated vaccine was a proven record for economical large-scale manufacturing and a well-known regulatory approval pathway. He expects that if approved, this vaccine may reach the market sometime in late 2021.

Griffith University Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Mario Pinto said the University was very excited to be in partnership with a leading vaccine company such as Indian Immunologicals Limited.

“This is indeed a major step in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine because collaboration with industry will be necessary to bring this program to fruition.”

Indian Immunologicals Limited is already working with Griffith University on the development of a Zika virus vaccine which is currently at pre-clinical toxicology testing stage. The joint project has been progressing well and Indian Immunologicals Limited is expected to submit the application for conducting clinical trials in due course.

Speaking on the partnership, Dr K Anand Kumar, Managing Director, Indian Immunologicals Limited said, IIL is committed to addressing critical public health needsby engaging in this research collaboration. The mission at IIL is to develop and supply vaccines that support the One Health initiative. IIL has taken up this initiative to develop a vaccine candidate for the pandemic — COVID-19. IIL’s leadership in producing safe and affordable human and veterinary vaccines will enable us to progress well in this endeavour.”

Commenting on the research collaboration, Dr Prasanna Deshpande, Dy. Managing Director, Indian Immunologicals Limited said, “After evaluating various options being followed across the world, we decided to develop a Live Attenuated COVID-19 vaccine based on codon de-optimised technology. With our dedicated research and development capabilities supported with excellent team of scientists and engineers, IIL is committed to developing high-quality vaccines that are affordable. We hope this new cross-continental collaboration will yield the desired results”.