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UAB: COVID-19 vaccine candidate shows promising signs

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

A preclinical study of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham showed positive results that distinguish it from other vaccine candidates and initial clinical tests are set to begin in the fall, researchers say.

The Maryland-based biopharmaceutical company Altimmune Inc. on Tuesday said its intranasal spray vaccine, AdCOVID, has shown positive results in animal trials conducted at UAB.

This news follows the July announcement by Altimmune that the vaccine candidate prompted a mouse immune response in the blood that was strong enough to neutralize the COVID-19 virus, as well as a potent immune response in the respiratory tract — the site the COVID-19 virus first infects.

In animal models at UAB, a single dose resulted in a potent T-cell response at the mucus layer of the lungs, including killer CD8+ T-cells, which can recognize and kill virally infected cells, a press release from UAB said.

Recent reports have suggested the importance of T-cell responses for long-term protection from COVID-19.

“The property that sets AdCOVID apart is that it has been shown preclinically to induce a potent T-cell and IgA antibody response in the lungs, in addition to the systemic neutralizing antibody response induced by intramuscular vaccine candidates,” said Dr. Frances Lund, chair of the UAB Department of Microbiology and lead investigator for preclinical testing of the AdCOVID vaccine candidates.

“This local mucosal immune response is an important addition to the systemic immune response and has the potential to block infection and prevent transmission,” Lund said.

Since AdCOVID would be administered through the nose, it has the potential to be administered rapidly and without the need for needles, syringes or trained health care personnel.

Also, the expected room temperature stability of AdCOVID may allow broad distribution of the vaccine without the need for expensive cold-chain logistics, such as refrigeration or freezing, UAB said.

The human phase one safety and immunogenicity study for AdCOVID is expected to begin later this year.

The Altimmune-UAB collaboration was announced March 30, and Lund made that work the highest priority for her group, which included six UAB labs, all working under UAB COVID-19 safety protocols.

“The goal is to get the data to Altimmune as rapidly as possible, so they will use the information gained from the preclinical study to design their clinical trial in people,” Lund previously said.

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