Oxford COVID-19 vaccine behaving as expected: UK study

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford University and UK-based pharmaceutical AstraZeneca is precisely copying and following the genetic instructions programmed into it by its developers to successfully arouse a strong immune response, as per a study by independent UK scientists.

“This is an important study as we are able to confirm that the genetic instructions underpinning this vaccine, which is being developed as fast as safely possible, are correctly followed when they get into a human cell,” says Dr. David Matthews, a virology expert who led the research.

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Further, Dr. Matthews added that “until now, the technology hasn’t been able to provide answers with such clarity, but we now know the vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness.”

AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University researchers, is seen to be leading the race to create a vaccine to fight against COVID-19. The vaccine candidate is currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials.

The first data from late-stage large-scale clinical trials being conducted in several countries around the world, including Brazil, the United States and Britain are expected to be published before the end of the year.

How does it work?

The AstraZeneca Oxford COVID-19 vaccine either known as ChAdOx1 or AZD1222 is developed by taking a common cold virus named adenovirus from chimpanzees and erasing about 20 percent of the virus’s instructions. This means the vaccine can’t replicate or cause disease in humans. By removing these genetic instructions there is space to add the instructions for the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2.

Once the vaccine gets into human cells these instructions detail how to make the spike protein from the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19. When the spike protein is made, the immune system reacts to it, training the immune system to identify a real COVID-19 infection.

The UK researchers have developed the techniques to confirm that the vaccine accurately copies and uses the genetic instructions programmed into it by the Oxford team.

Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and lead on the Oxford vaccine trial stated that “the study confirms that large amounts of the coronavirus spike protein are produced with great accuracy and this goes a long way to explaining the success of the vaccine in inducing a strong immune response.”

The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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