Tag Archives: Vaccines

Research: The Search For A Universal Vaccine (2022)

Vaccines are one of the greatest scientific discoveries in human history. They eradicated a disease, smallpox, that killed 300 million people in the 20th Century. They save countless lives every year, protecting against diseases caused by viruses like polio, measles and yellow fever. But some viruses are particularly difficult to target with vaccines.

We need a flu shot every year because the virus mutates so much previous vaccines may no longer be effective. Scientists are closer than ever before to developing what are known as universal vaccines. These vaccines would protect against many variants of a given virus, and potentially against entire virus families. Viruses are constantly mutating, but only some of those mutations are important.

For example, a change in the shape or chemical properties of the spike protein a virus uses to infect a cell could make the virus more transmissible. It could also mean antibodies developed from previous infection or vaccination wouldn’t be able protect against the current virus. But, there are some sites on viruses that don’t mutate as much, or at all. These sites are often vital to the virus’ survival. Scientists are using powerful technologies to identify antibodies that target these sites.

They’re called broadly neutralizing antibodies and are capable of protecting against multiple viral variants. Now, researchers are working to design shots that get our bodies to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies. Meaning someday soon, vaccines for HIV, flu and coronavirus might be enough to effectively ward off these viruses for the better part of a lifetime.

Medical Trials: Cancer-Preventing Vaccines

The idea is to deliver into the body bits of proteins, or antigens, from cancer cells to stimulate the immune system to attack any incipient tumors. The concept isn’t new, and it has faced skepticism. A decade ago, a Nature editorial dismissed a prominent breast cancer advocacy group’s goal of developing a preventive vaccine by 2020 as “misguided,” in part because of the genetic complexity of tumors. The editorial called the goal an “objective that science cannot yet deliver.” But now, a few teams—including one funded by the same advocacy group, the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC)—are poised to test preventive vaccines, in some cases in healthy people at high genetic risk for breast and other cancers. 

COVID-19: HOW BIONTECH USED ITS CANCER RESEARCH TO CREATE A VACCINE (CNBC)

Over a month and a half before the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic, BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin met with his wife, BioNTech’s co-founder and chief medical officer Özlem Türeci, and together they agreed to redirect most of the company’s resources to developing a vaccine. Up until that point, BioNTech was little-known internationally and primarily focused on developing novel cancer treatments. The founders were confident in the potential of their mRNA technology, which they knew could trigger a powerful immune response. That confidence wasn’t necessarily shared by the broader medical community. No mRNA vaccine or treatment had ever been approved before. But the couple’s timely breakthrough was actually decades in the making. CNBC spoke with Şahin and Türeci about how they, along with Pfizer, created a Covid-19 vaccine using mRNA.

COMMENTARY:

This commentary concerns a video showing aspects of the development of MRNA vaccines. It is all about Pfizer’s German partner, BioNtech, which manufactures the vaccine. They have produced the bulk of the worlds mRNA vaccines, due to Pfizer‘s great financial strength and  experience in marketing.

Moderna, a wholly American company and by comparison a small fry, has also been doing decades of work with mRNA platform technology, mainly on cancer treatment.

With $800 million from the U.S. government, Moderna was able to scale up their manufacturing process and deliver a vaccine, approved by the FDA, shortly after Pfizer did so.

These vaccines were made possible by two technical advances.
The first advance was in substituting pseudouridine for uridine in the mRNA, so that the target cells natural defenses would not destroy it. The second involves coating the mRNA with a nano size particle to get it into the target cell.

Each of these advances will probably receive a Nobel prize, and is an elegant example of the sophistication of modern  biotechnology.

—Dr. C.

COVID-19: WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BOOSTER SHOTS

The Biden administration announced that Americans who have been fully vaccinated with a two-dose regimen against Covid-19 should receive a booster, citing the threat from the highly contagious Delta variant. WSJ breaks down what you need to know. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

COVID-19: ARE VACCINE INCENTIVES PAYING OFF?

Across the country, states are shelling out incentives ranging from free beer to $1 million lotteries to encourage residents to get their Covid-19 shots. But is the effort to boost vaccination rates working? And is it worth the cost? Photo composite: Adam Falk/The Wall Street Journal

MEDICINE: HOW VACCINES ACTUALLY WORK (VIDEO)

Vaccines are medicines that train the body to defend itself against future disease, and they have been saving human lives for hundreds of years. Vaccines are medicines that train the body to defend itself against future disease.

COVID-19: WHY ‘JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINE’ WAS ‘PAUSED’ IN U.S. & EUROPE

The rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been paused in the US, Europe and South Africa after reports of rare blood clotting in a very small number of people. Health authorities said they were halting the use of the shot while they investigate the cases — and that they were doing this out of “an abundance of caution.” The Astra Zeneca jab was also recently temporarily suspended in some countries after being linked to rare blood clots. Authorities are calling it a short “pause.” The US’s Johnson and Johnson vaccine has hit the same stumbling block as the UK’s AstraZeneca jab did last month: a likely link to a rare and deadly blood clot. Use of Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine has now been halted across the US, Europe and South Africa, with health authorities investigating six incidents of clotting in younger women, one of them fatal. The US-developed vaccine uses an adenovirus to trigger immunity – the same mechanism as the UK’s AstraZeneca vaccine. It accounts for roughly 5 percent of vaccines delivered so far in the US. This is a setback to Europe, too. Johnson and Johnson announced it will delay it’s rollout on the continent. The company had already started processing an order from the EU of 200 million doses. The Janssen jab has been partially rolled out in Africa, where a majority of countries don’t have enough vaccines even for their healthcare workers. The African Union signed a deal for 220 million doses this year. But US authorities remain hopeful. They’re saying it could only be a matter of days before the rollout resumes.