Conquering COVID Part 1.4:
“40+ reasons why a vaccine could & should work?!”
(aka the virus is currently NOT a chameleon)
April 2, 2020
by Mark A. Moyad, MD, MPH
“I am concerned, of course, but I am also incredibly optimistic.”
“The ultimate game changer in this is a vaccine…and we are right on track!” (Dr. Anthony S. Fauci-Yesterday on TV at approximately 6:40 PM Eastern Time as I was finishing this column…beautiful!).
Some vaccines, such as the one for chickenpox, give long-term immunity and you do not need to
alter it year after year because it is so effective. However, then there is the flu/influenza shot that you have to
update year after year for
continued efficacy. Flu strains have a greater ability to evolve, which is why we
receive a new vaccine immunization every year. And, the seasonal flu vaccine is not only a pain in the gluteus maximus because researchers need to predict the strains that will be most common, but then manufacturers need to utilize eggs or cell cultures to create these vaccines, which takes a lot of time and money. However, what if research is beginning to show this may no longer be the case?
- Hemagglutinin (HA), of which there are 18 different sub-types (H1 to H18), and
- Neuraminidase (NA), of which there are 11 different sub-types (N1 to N11)
There are also different groups (“clades”) and subgroups (“sub-clades”) within these sub-types so there are different forms of H1N1 for example. Blah, blah, blah … just get to the exciting part Moyad! Okay. The exciting part is the HA protein because it is the so-called “key” of the virus that fits into the “lock” of the human cell in order to gain access and cause problems. The HA protein has one part that can change year-to-year, which is why people need different annual flu shots so their immune system can react to this change. HOWEVER, researchers have also discovered that another part of the HA protein that gains access to humans remains essentially the same year after year! This makes it a great option for a potential UNIVERSAL FLU VACCINE that could be the same one given annually because an immune response to the non-changing part of the HA protein could be enough to protect many people.
Can you imagine if researchers could just develop a universal flu vaccine? Yes! Clinical testing of this product has already begun with some initial promising results in a phase 2 study (Plequezuelos O, et al.
Ann Intern Med
March 10, 2020. &
March 2020.). A single dose vaccine named “FLU-v” was found to be safe and potentially efficacious in 175 volunteer participants. Now that this potential universal flu vaccine produces antibodies, researchers need to see if this is good enough to prevent the flu and/or the severity of the flu after completing a final phase 3 trial. However, this is not the only universal flu vaccine being tested. The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) started its first in-human trial of a universal flu vaccine in 2019 and the BiondVax company (
) has already initiated a phase-3 trial known as “M-001”, which has enrolled over 12,000 individuals with potential results available by the end of 2020!
Okay, Moyad but you have been talking about flu and these contributions are supposed to be about COVID-19? Precisely! What? Yes! I wanted to talk about a potential universal flu vaccine to really drive home the point that if researchers could develop such a flu vaccine, then a vaccine to prevent COVID-19
COULD & SHOULD EVENTUALLY WORK! It is harder to make a vaccine against an ever-changing target versus one that is not changing. Thus, if researchers have the technology to create a universal vaccine against a changing target such as the flu, then going after a non-changing target makes it easier to predict that an effective vaccine will be created right? Yes! So, am I saying that a COVID-19 prevention vaccine is a non-changing target?
Researchers (Peter Thielen - molecular genetics, etc.) at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have currently found that “the coronavirus is not mutating significantly as it circulates through the human population,” which means “the virus is less likely to
become more or less dangerous as it spreads”, which means that the potential for a “long-lasting vaccine” is not as likely to be impacted by a mutating virus (Achenbach J.
The Washington Post, March 24, 2020). In other words, this is preliminary evidence, but it does suggest a vaccine could also be effective and these researchers also commented that if a vaccine was successful then it would be a “single vaccine” instead of a brand new one every year such as the influenza/flu vaccine. Since the current virus is not acting as a chameleon and staying relatively stable in structure and appearance, then it is somewhat analogous to a flu strain rarely changing. So, researchers can get this thing!
SARS-CoV-2 virus (the one that causes COVID-19) genome is made up of approximately 30,000 base pairs. Humans have more than 3 billion! We got this people! We are far more complex than this Son of a Virus (sorry, again to maintain decorum while assuming more children are on the internet than ever before I am refraining from bad language). Even in the virus’s most divergent strains researchers have found only 11 base pair changes, so it is easy to spot new changes as they occur. Researchers have already been completing genomic sequencing in real-time to see what viral strains are circulating geographically. For example, one of the first cases in the U.S. was in Washington where a man who had been in Wuhan, China returned home on January 15, and it was only 3 mutations away from the original Wuhan strain (Dr. Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and others including working with
). The virus on the U.S. East Coast is similar to the one in Washington and China and Europe. In other words, again, so far, there have only been a small number of genetic variations since the outbreak in Wuhan, China. If this continues we could and should have an effective vaccine!
Okay, Moyad you are being overly optimistic, right? (by the way I like to ask myself questions). Right? What if the first or the next vaccine being developed is not that effective? Interestingly, in the past few weeks the World Health Organization (WHO?...I know….nerd joke), and other public health/medical research reporting groups (for example The Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society-Rockville, MD), have reported and listed OVER 40 VACCINE candidates that are currently being created in the laboratory or moving toward some type of study. Over 40! Research is never static! “The ultimate game changer in this is a vaccine…and we are right on track!” (again Dr. Anthony S. Fauci - Yesterday on TV at approximately 6:40 PM Eastern Time as I was typing this column).
I/we want to thank every company or group working on a vaccine to prevent COVID-19! In fact, why don’t we thank each and every one of them right now? Okay. Here is a partial list of companies, in alphabetical order, reporting potential vaccine development at some stage (note: some of these companies/institutions/groups are working on more than one vaccine at a time):
Name of Company/Institution/Group in Vaccine Development
Deferential Thank You:
Arcturus/Duke-NUS - Thank You!
AJ Vaccines - Thank You!
Altimmune - Thank You!
Baylor College of Medicine - Thank You!
BIOCAD - Thank You!
CanSino Biologics - Thank You!
China CDC/Tongji University/Stermina - Thank You!
Clover Biopharmaceuticals Inc./GSK - Thank You!
Codagenix/Serum Institute of India - Thank You!
CureVac - Thank You!
Doherty Institute - Thank You!
EpiVax/Univ. of Georgia - Thank You!
ExpreS2ion - Thank You!
Fudan University/Shanghai JiaoTong University/RNACure Biopharma - Thank You!
Generex/EpiVax - Thank You!
GeoVax/BravoVax - Thank You!
Greffex - Thank You!
Heat Biologics/Univ. of Miami - Thank You!
iBio/CC-Pharming - Thank You!
ImmunoPrecise - Thank You!
Imperial College London- Thank You!
Inovio - Thank You!
Institute Pasteur - Thank You!
Janssen - Thank You!
Johnson and Johnson - Thank You!
Medicago - Thank You!
MIGAL Galilee Research Institute - Thank You!
Moderna/NIAID - Thank You!
Novavax - Thank You!
Pfizer/BioNTech - Thank You!
Sanofi Pasteur - Thank You!
Sinovac - Thank You!
Sorrento/SmartPharm - Thank You!
Takis/Applied DNA Sciences/Evvivax - Thank You!
Tonix Pharma/Southern Research - Thank You!
Tulane University - Thank You!
University of Oxford - Thank You!
University of Pittsburgh - Thank You!
University of Queensland/GSK - Thank You!
University of Saskatchewan - Thank You!
Vaxart - Thank You!
Vaxil Bio - Thank You!
WRAIR/USAMRIID - Thank You!
Zydus Cadila - Thank You!
Thank you for reading my latest installment and I wish you and your family the best of health.
I am concerned, of course, but I am also incredibly optimistic! I look forward to modern day science and you of course, kicking COVID-19 and cancer in the gluteus maximus!
All of my best always,
Mark A. Moyad MD, MPH
Read my previous COVID-19 articles at:
Visit the Us TOO COVID page at: