A unique vaccine produced by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research began clinical trials on Tuesday, and military researchers hope it will combat variants of SARS-COV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The vaccine, called spike ferritin nanoparticle or SpFN, can also help fight other coronaviruses, a group of related RNA viruses that often cause respiratory diseases in mammals.
Army researchers have tracked the threat of new coronavirus even before the pandemic, according to Kayvon Modjarrad, director of new infectious diseases at Walter Reed. This threat has accelerated in recent years.
The Ministry of Defense has had a total of more than 271,000 COVID-19 cases. Of these, 3,814 people have been hospitalized and 332 people have died. Twenty-four of the dead have been service members and 11 have been addicted.
Vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were approved under an emergency use approval by the US Food and Drug Administration and are available to troops.
The Pentagon has made vaccination of the force a contingency problem, allowing military operations to return to pre-pandemic norms. Although there were some lobbying issues for troops to take the voluntary vaccine early, vaccination rates appear to be rising in recent weeks.
“The more people who are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the level of virus transmission decreases, making it less likely to continue to mutate,” said Dr. Steven Cersovsky, deputy director of the Army Public Health Center, in late February.
New variants of COVID-19 have emerged in South Africa and the United Kingdom. But Army medical personnel are hopeful that current vaccines can combat the new strains. But if there are problems, Walter Reed’s vaccine may prove to be timely.
“We have designed and positioned this platform as the next generation vaccine, one that paves the way for a universal vaccine to not only protect against the current virus, but also counteract future variants and stop them in their tracks before they can cause another pandemic, ”said Modjarrad.
Preclinical studies have shown that SpFN induces very strong antibody responses in patients, attenuating the virus causing COVID-19 infection, as well as three major SARS-CoV-2 variants and SARS-CoV-1 virus.
The Phase 1 study is being conducted at the Walter Reed Clinical Trial Center and will enroll 72 healthy adult volunteers aged 18-55 years. Participants are randomly placed in placebo or experimental groups.
The clinical trial of SpFN is sponsored by the US Army Medical Research and Development Command.
The vaccine was developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research with support from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc.