One of the owners of the Los Angeles Lakers is developing an oral coronavirus vaccine that would ease the process of giving shots by ditching the injections.
Lakers co-owner and drug inventor Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong and his team of researchers are testing whether oral pills could work in conjunction with – or even better than – vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration, reported CBS Los Angeles.
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All three vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S. – from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – work by creating antibodies that neutralize the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to enter and infect human cells.
But the team’s new vaccine targets the globe-shaped center of the virus, which does not often mutate.
In addition, the team says that the vaccine would be faster, cheaper and easier to administer because it wouldn’t have to be stored at refrigerator or freezing temperatures.
“To have a vaccine that’s room temperature, that could be a pill, is life changing,” one of the investigators, Dr Tara Seery, of the Chan Soon-Shiong Research Institute for Medicine, in El Segundo, California told CBS Los Angeles.
For the trial, which is currently in phase 1, the team split volunteers into four groups to see how well the pills work.
One group received just pills, the second group received just an injection, the third group received pills and an injection and the fourth received neither.
The new oral vaccine also targets a part of the coronavirus that is less prone to mutation.
The majority of the most commonly recognized variants, including from the UK, South Africa and Brazil – have mutations affecting the virus’s spike protein.
This protein is what the coronavirus uses to ‘hijack’ human cells, make multiple copies of itself and spread throughout the body.
But the new oral vaccine attacks the centre of the virus known as the lipid bilayer envelope, to which the spike protein is anchored.
“And the value of doing so is that we generate killer T cells,’ Soon-Shiong told CBS Los Angeles.
T cells are types of white blood cells that bind to and kill viruses.
The team believes that by generating both antibodies and T cells, recipients would have protection that lasts for a long time.
Soon-Chong says the researchers are also testing a combination of an injection and oral vaccines because he believes we may need both to beat back the virus.
“By giving a jab, we hope to develop T cells all around your body,” he told the station.
“And by giving orally, we protect the mucus membranes, the gut and hopefully the nose, the mouth, because that’s how the virus comes in. It doesn’t come in through your blood.”
The trial is open to adults between ages 18 and 55 who have never tested positive for COVID-19 and are not immunodeficient.