Slovenian-developed vaccine undergoing further tests

Ljubljana, 9 October - A coronavirus vaccine developed by a team of researchers at the Ljubljana-based Chemistry Institute, which has produced a high immune response in mice, will be tested on hamsters starting next week using a live virus, the head of the team, Roman Jerala, said on Friday.

Speaking at a debate hosted by the European Commission Representation in Slovenia and the Chemistry Institute, Jerala said the tests on hamsters, which respond to the virus similarly as humans, would provide the team with additional information on its efficiency.

The tests conducted so far on mice have shown that the antibodies neutralise the virus just like with other vaccines and just like the antibodies in patients who have recovered from infection.

The vaccine is based on plasmid DNA, which contains the code for the virus proteins and triggers the production of virus proteins in human cells. These respond by creating anti-bodies and the protective T-cells.

Several vaccines based on the plasmid DNA are already being tested in clinical research in the US, Japan and South Korea.

The advantages of such vaccines are low costs of production and high stability, even outside freezers, while their downside is that they cannot enter cells as efficiently as viruses.

But Jerala's team has overcome this problem by modifying the virus's proteins into nano parts that are reminiscent of viruses, which improves the response of the immune system.

Jerala said the vaccine, which has not even entered clinical studies yet, would come too late for this epidemic. But he is confident that worldwide a safe and efficient vaccine would be available before the beginning of next year.

He also called for more EU investment in efforts to produce a vaccine, noting the US had invested US$ 11 billion into nine research platforms without knowing which of the projects could be successful.