COVID-19 News: Inovio's DNA Vaccine Candidate, Hearing Loss with Delta Variant and More

CV Update_June 8_2021

There are new questions about the severity of the COVID-19 Delta variant (B.1.617.2), which is the primary variant driving the surge of disease in India. New symptoms not typically seen with other variants, including hearing impairment, severe gastric upsets and blood clots leading to gangrene are being reported in that country. The variant is also common in England and Scotland and is associated with higher hospitalization rates. More can be read at Bloomberg.

The New York Times reported details from a new study suggesting how the Alpha variant of COVID-19 became the most common around the world. According to the report, Alpha is able to disable the first line of immune defense, which gives the variant more time to multiply. The research team found that lung cells infected by Alpha do not make nearly enough interferon, which is a protein that signals numerous immune responses within the body. Read more here.

As more COVID-19 variants occur, there will be a need for constant reworkings of diagnostic tests to catch them all. Read more at The Atlantic.  

New studies of COVID-19 in juveniles found that many of those youths most severely infected had underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity or heart problems, while a second study found that those children diagnosed with acute lower respiratory tract infection were more than twice as likely to require mechanical ventilation, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported. Read more about these studies here.

Thermo Fisher introduced the Ion AmpliSeq SARS-CoV-2 Insight Research Assay to bolster local, regional and national surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 variants through the use of next generation sequencing. The company also announced a new imaging-enhanced flow cytometer that combines acoustic focusing flow cytometry technology with a high-speed camera.

Toronto-based Revive Therapeutics entered into a sponsored research agreement with University of California, San Francisco to explore the utility of bucillamine, an anti-inflammatory drug, as a treatment for severe COVID-19. The efficacy of bucillamine will be assessed in pre-clinical models of COVID-19 and protocols that test the utility of bucillamine in human trials will also be designed by researchers. Additionally, Revive announced a partnership with India’s Supriya Lifescience Ltd. to pursue EUA for bucillamine as a COVID treatment in that country.

COVID-19 Associated with Worse Mental Health in Teens

A study out of Iceland in 13- to 18-year-olds found an increase in depression symptoms and mental wellbeing growing worse. It was significantly worse in girls than in boys. The study looked at 59,701 responses to surveys.

Former FDA Commissioner Thinks Fall COVID-19 Boosters Likely

Although the research isn’t yet in, some experts think there will be a need for booster shots to the COVID-19 vaccines. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently said he believes people who are vaccinated are well-protected throughout the summer, but he suspects another dose will be needed later in the year.

Inovio Expands Deal with Advaccine to Phase III COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

Inovio announced it was expanding a previously announced partnership with Advaccine Biopharmaceuticals Suzhou to run the Phase III part of a Phase II/II INNOVATE trial of INO-4800. INO-4800 is Inovio’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

More than a Dozen Existing Drug Possible COVID-19 Therapies

A study out of Scripps Research identified four already approved drugs and nine compounds in late development that they believe can be repurposed as oral therapies for COVID-19. They began with 90 possible drugs and winnowed them down to the best candidates that prevented the SARS-CoV-2 (SARS2) virus from replicating in human cells, and 19 worked with or increased the activity of Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ REGEN-COV for a lower dose of 1,200 mg, half of the original authorized dose. REGEN-COV is a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 — casirivimab and imdevimab.

With all the misinformation circling the web about a coronavirus that just happens to be novel, it makes sense to be more than a little bit confused about the need for vaccination after a COVID-19 infection. Research might help provide some clarity about the topic. Click here for more information.

While several countries are relying on Sinovac Biotech’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine to end the pandemic once and for all, concerns regarding the shot’s efficacy continue to shroud the vaccine, which is currently the second most used vaccine product across the globe.

New Insight on How Cells Infected with SARS-CoV-2 Interact with Immune System

A new study published in Cell and led by clinical-stage biotech company Repertoire Immune Medicines offers new insight into how cells infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) interact with the body’s immune system. The company believes the recent findings, which provide an updated understanding of the process of viral antigen presentation and epitope selection, may assist in vaccine development for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In the study, researchers used a method dubbed “immunopeptidomics,” which allowed them to examine the presentation of the SARS-CoV-2 antigen on infected human cell lines. Using this technique, the investigators identified the presentation of several peptides from non-canonical reading frames of the novel coronavirus’ genome. The researchers found that these peptides were later found to be relevant in disease in both a mouse model as well as human patients with COVID-19.

Vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time, but the successful advancement of therapeutics, particularly those that could disrupt the CARS-CoV-2 virus cycle, have been slower to move through the clinic. Researchers at multiple companies and institutes are doggedly pursuing that goal so the virus can become little more than a hindrance in the future. A recent PBS report highlighted some of these efforts, focusing on clinical programs that have the potential to halt viral reproduction and keep those infected out of the hospitals. 

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