COVID-19 DNA vaccine candidate trials yield positive results

COVID-19 DNA vaccine candidate trials yield positive resultsUN staff repack and inspect the first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines in Ghana, distributed by the COVAX Facility. (UNICEF)

The collaboration between researchers at the North West University (NWU) and the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) on the development of a new COVID-19 vaccine candidate received a major boost.

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Results from the pre-clinical trial of the DNA vaccine candidate have been positive. The next step will be for the process to go into the clinical development phase. The partnership between the NWU and WSU was led by Germany-based Professor Markus Depfenhart, who works with both universities.

Speaking to Health-e News, Director of NWU’s Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research, Professor Petra Bester said the promising results are a good step towards vaccine development on the continent.

“This exciting trial is going to equip Africans with the capacity to develop their own vaccines. Vaccine development is a difficult territory to access and this trial provides the perfect platform. We are going to use this trial as an opportunity to strengthen our universities’ relations in terms of disease control and research,” said Bester.

The WSU Medical School has asserted itself in the highly competitive medical academic circles. It takes pride in the quality of medics that graduate from the school. The NWU, on the other hand, is renowned for a strong reputation in drug development and research.

More than COVID-19 vaccine development

In an article published on nwu.ac.za, Rushiella Songca, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of WSU said the COVID-19 vaccine candidate will instil confidence in local scientists.

“It is about much more than a vaccine candidate. It’s about building capacity on the African continent, collaborating, and installing confidence in our scientists that everything seems impossible until you achieve it. We’re learning, by the day, every step of the process. We look forward to a strong future collaboration resulting from this initiative and strengthening bonds in the Pan-African research and innovation community,” she said.

“We can no longer afford to work in isolation from one another on the continent – we need links and partnerships to grow and succeed.”

According to Songca, DNA vaccines are relatively inexpensive and straightforward to manufacture, and can be adjusted quickly to address mutations and offer a simple yet effective means of inducing broad-based immunity.

“Since they are stable at ambient temperature without a cold chain for storage and shipping, they are a desirable vaccination platform, almost ideal for all conditions on our continent,” she said. – Health-e News