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The latest on covid-19 vaccine development

Vaccine tests have been successful on animals

By Matthew R. Bailey

Special to the Chronicle

Credit covid-19 vaccine research success to some unsung heroes – lab animals.

More than 125 potential vaccines are in development 7 months after we 1st learned of the virus.

We can thank animal research for our rapid progress.

Take the work at biotechnology company Inovio.

Studies of its vaccine, INO-4800, revealed a strong immune response in mice and guinea pigs.

Jenner Institute researchers at Oxford University in the UK have teamed with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Their vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. created an immune response in rhesus monkeys.

ChAdOx1's human trials are yielding promising results.

The vaccine produced antibodies and T-cells capable of fighting the virus.

A ChAdOx1 trial will be distributed to more than 30,000 participants this month.

Researchers aim for a mass-production vaccine that generates antibodies with a single dose.

Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center teamed with Johnson & Johnson on a vaccine, Ad26.COV2-S.

Beth Israel validated its vaccine in a study involving 25 rhesus macaques.

Each received 1 of 6 variants of the vaccine and follow-up booster.

Researchers exposed the monkeys and a control group to the virus 3 weeks later.

BioNTech in Germany teamed with Pfizer to develop 4 vaccines.

All show strong efficacy in animal trials.

They plan to produce millions of doses by the end of 2020 and more than 1 billion by the end of 2021.

Animal research is helping answer a question that concerns scientists.

If someone gets the disease, will they develop immunity?

The Beth Israel researchers exposed 9 monkeys to the virus.

All recovered and developed antibodies.

All monkeys had nearly full protection when re-exposed a month later.

The US government is supporting these partnerships to get successful vaccines produced and distributed next year.

Federal money pays to make vials and syringes while vaccines are in development rather than waiting until final approval.

Given the urgency of developing a vaccine, some animal activists have argued scientists should skip trials in animals and go directly to humans.

But the Food and Drug Administration requires robust data showing a vaccine is safe before the agency will permit patients to get it.

That's why the leading vaccines have undergone extensive animal testing.

They will go through added research in animals to prove that they're safe while they're going through human clinical trials.

We need animals to evaluate whether vaccines deliver immunity or unwittingly make the virus more infectious.

The scientific campaign to defeat the virus begins with human ingenuity and humane animal research.

It will end with victory.

Matthew R. Bailey is president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research. 

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