2 Italian biotech companies target to put COVID-19 vaccine in human trials in September 2020
Rome: Potential COVID-19 vaccines being developed by two private research laboratories outside of Rome could enter into a testing phase as soon as in September, according to information from the two companies.
Advent-IRBM and Takis Biotech, two biotechnology companies based in Pomezia, a town around 30 km south of Rome, are among a handful of companies towards human testing of a potential vaccine, reported Xinhua news agency.
Advent-IRBM is set to start advanced studies on its potential vaccine in conjunction with the Jenner Institute, which is part of Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Advent-IRBM has announced it will send samples to the Jenner Institute on Thursday, where it will be developed in part with local funding.
Asked about the Advent-IRBM project on Tuesday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said "a vaccine is the best way to defeat the coronavirus," according to a ministry release. "If this vaccine or another works, the important thing is to immunize as many people as possible in the shortest time possible."
According to information from the company, research is based on the use of adenovirus, a mild virus that infects chimpanzees, with a genetic modification that carries part of the coronavirus. The hope is that it will create an immune response in humans.
Piero Di Lorenzo, Advent-IRBM's chief executive, said the testing at Oxford will be aimed at assuring the vaccine is effective and without unintended side effects.
Takis Biotech was among the first companies in Europe to switch its focus to developing a vaccine against the coronavirus. The company issued a press release as early as on Jan. 27, when the disease had not yet been named.
Luigi Aurisicchio, the chief executive and chief science officer for the company, saw the risk for a global outbreak back then.
"We will immediately make available our skills gained for the development of vaccines against cancer and other infectious diseases to fight the spread of this coronavirus," Aurisicchio stated in that press release.
"Our idea was to create a company quickly, and to focus on this," Aurisicchio said this week. "Since our technology is versatile, it can be adapted for a virus that mutates like COVID-19 ... [and even] for some new diseases that emerge."
The company has developed five potential vaccine candidates, all based on human DNA. It is now in the process of conducting animal trials after receiving authorization from Italian regulatory bodies. In a statement, the company said all five trials are "extremely positive."
Takis Biotech said it expects the best candidates to be ready for human testing "sometime in the fall," the season that starts in September. Advent-IRBM, meanwhile, said the best scenario for its potential vaccine is that it can be ready for human testing in September.