COVID vaccine could be delivered as a pill
A COVID-19 vaccine pill that could revolutionise the control of the pandemic is being trialled in a handful of Australians.
Not only would it eliminate the need for a painful jab, it could be stored at room temperature making it easy to transport and no medical workforce would be needed to deliver it.
Australian clinical trial company Nucleus Network is testing the safety of the vaccine for Canadian biotech company Symvivo and initial trial results are expected soon.
Nucleus Network's principal investigator and medical director Professor Paul Griffin told News Corp Asutralia the first stage clinical trial is testing whether the vaccine is safe and generates an immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19.
The vaccine works by putting a spike protein from the virus that causes COVID-19 into a probiotic bacteria called bifidobacterium longum, Professor Griffin said.
"It would be ingested and expressed in the gut, and hopefully that'll generate an immune response that will be sort of mucosally based and able to provide good protection," Prof Griffin said.
If the vaccine generates a mucosal response it could help block transmission of the virus and reduce viral shedding.
"If it does all those things it'll be remarkable," he said.
It is possible more than one tablet will be needed to generate a sufficient immune response, he said.
Results of this trial are expected to be published soon.
The founder and CEO of Symvivo, Alexander Graves, said the company's gene therapy platform enables the patient's own cells to produce proteins that clear the virus from the body.
"This unique approach delivers genetic material directly to the lining of the lower gastrointestinal tract, enabling both systemic and mucosal anti-SARS-CoV2 immune responses," Mr Graves said.
"Results from this trial will provide valuable insight enabling the development of a room-temperature stable oral formulation, with the ultimate goal of delivering a COVID-19 vaccine directly into people's homes throughout the world for self-administration and bypassing cold-chain supply logistics."
British biotech firm IosBio is also working on a pill vaccine for COVID-19 and AstraZeneca is looking at providing its COVID-19 vaccine as a pill or a nasal spray.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics last week released early trial results which showed its molnupiravir pill eliminated coronavirus after five days of treatment.
Nucleus Network which conducted clinical trials for the Novavax and University of Queensland COVID vaccines is also testing another made by the Serum Institute of India.
This vaccine candidate made by one of the world's largest vaccine manufacturer targets a different part of the virus and could help deal with variants of the virus that are evading existing vaccines.
Around 250 participants are involved in the Phase 2 trial.
Australia is falling way behind its target to vaccinate 4 million Australians by April, just over 100,000 people have received the jabs so far.
There are only 1.3 million imported vaccines in the country with the first one million locally produced vaccines not due to arrive until March 22.
Originally published as COVID vaccine could be delivered as a pill