22 May 2020 09:44

Russian Covid-19 vector vaccine unofficially tested on humans, experiment successful - Gamaleya Center director

MOSCOW. May 22 (Interfax) - Specialists of the Nikolai Gamaleya National Epidemiology and Microbiology Research Center of the Russian Health Ministry tested a vector vaccine for the novel coronavirus infection on themselves; the experience proved to be successful: immunity emerged, and no negative effects were detected, the center's director Academician Alexander Gintsburg told Interfax.

"As regards the developers, indeed, they didn't so much seek to test it on themselves, rather, they sought to protect themselves in order to be able to work on this development amid the pandemic [...] Consequently, all those working on this development are protected," Gintsburg said.

When asked whether there were any side-effects, Gintsburg said "no, everyone is safe and sound and happy." He did not disclose the number of specialists who had given themselves an injection of the vaccine, only saying that it was a wide range of the center's employees - developers, pre-clinical trial organizers, and product specialists.

This is the center's prospective vector vaccine based on the adenovirus DNA where the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus gene was built in, Gintsburg said. The adenovirus serves as a "container" to deliver the coronavirus gene to a cell, trigger there the secretion of the proteins of the shell of the new coronavirus (the 'corona' after which the coronavirus was named), and thus "acquaint" the immune system with the potential enemy. Vaccines of this type are called vector vaccines.

The Nikolai Gamaleya National Epidemiology and Microbiology Research Center is so far officially in the final stages of preclinical studies, testing the vaccine on primates, and, Gintsburg said, the scientists used the vaccine on themselves, seeking to protect themselves rather than test the vaccine. The center hopes to start official trials on volunteers soon - as soon as the results of the trials on primates become available, the center will ask the Health Ministry for permission to launch clinical studies.

Clinical studies may be record short, taking only the three summer months, and may include only one phase, thus allowing scientists to speak of the completion of the development by the beginning of fall, he said.

"Yes, clinical studies of the vaccine may be completed by the end of summer," Gintsburg said.

"If the results [of the trials] on primates are convincing, I think that relevant authorities will have every right to grant us permission, in which safety and immunogenicity studies will be combined in one phase," he said.