On Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post reported that a team of Israeli scientists assert they are only days away from finishing production of the active component of a coronavirus vaccine. Additionally, the researchers say their work could be tested on humans by June 1.
Dr. Chen Katz, group leader of MIGAL’s biotechnology group, which is partially funded by Israel’s Science and Technology Ministry, stated, “We are in the final stages and within a few days we will hold the proteins – the active component of the vaccine.”
The Post noted, “Researchers at MIGAL scientists have been developing a vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which causes a bronchial disease affecting poultry. The effectiveness of the vaccine has been proven in preclinical trials carried out at the Veterinary Institute.”
Katz added, “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus. The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.”
Katz acknowledged, “Let’s call it pure luck. We decided to choose coronavirus as a model for our system just as a proof of concept for our technology.”
MIGAL researchers analyzed the DNA of the novel coronavirus it and discovered the poultry coronavirus has tremendous genetic similarity and uses the same infection mechanism. Katz said that fact makes an effective human vaccine possible much more quickly.
Katz said, “The quality of this kind of vaccine should be closer to food regulations than pharma regulations or somewhere in between. We hope that we will not need to go through the complete purification process like in the drug industry, because that could delay us … technology wise, people wise we have all we need in Israel.”
Israel’s government has been pushing hard for to find a vaccine; as early as February, Science and Technology Minister Ofer Akunis told his ministry’s director-general to fast-track all approval processes.
The Israel Institute for Biological Research, an Israeli government defense research institute whose work is normally quite secretive, is collaborating with other entities to create a vaccine. Israel Institute for Biological Research chief innovation officer Eran Zahavy, who rarely makes public comments, stated, “We are trying as much as we can to collaborate and have other ideas of other people. But the facility of the lab is very crowded and very busy and very dangerous, so it has to be very slow and very cautious … It’s not enough only to detect neutralizing antibodies in the animal. You really want to see them getting sick and getting better by this vaccine.”
The IIBR website states, “IIBR scientists contributed to the development of a vaccine for polio (1959); developed kits for the detection of explosive materials (1980); developed of a brand name drug against Sjogren syndrome (1984) marketed all over the world and is one of four brand name drugs developed in Israel.”