Tuesday, August 9

From chrysalis to nanoparticles: the other Spanish private projects to create a vaccine against the coronavirus

With the news of the approval of the first clinical trials in humans of a Spanish vaccine, the one developed by the pharmaceutical company Hipra, by the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS), the drug in which the company is working The private sector is at the forefront of the Spanish investigation against COVID-19. But it is not the only one in the business sector that is carrying out projects in this line. Among the private Spanish names that are studying a vaccine against the coronavirus, in addition to Hipra, others such as Viralgen Vector Core, Innoup Farma, Algenex, the Zendal group and IrsiCaixa stand out.

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Algenex chrysalis technology

The Madrid company Algenex is working on a very new technological platform: the use of the chrysalis of an insect to develop and produce a vaccine against COVID-19. They have called this technology CrisBio, and it promises to increase the speed of creation of this type of product, which would also help other countries to access vaccines. The biotech company is investigating a vaccine based on a viral vector or vehicle. That is, they use the baculovirus, a genetically manipulated, harmless virus for humans to infect the pupae. Thus, the cells of these begin to produce the recombinant protein that will serve, once the drug has been purified and finished, to trigger the immune response in the body.

This technology could serve not only to develop the company’s vaccine, but also as a platform for other baculovirus-based COVID-19 vaccines, such as the American Novavax. It could even be used for other viruses due to its large production capacity. Algenex already has approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to use this pupa technology in a product against rabbit hemorrhagic disease.

The Innoup Farma Oral Vaccine

Innoup Farma is a biopharmaceutical company located in Pamplona, ​​Navarra, which is studying together with the University of Navarra a vaccine against the coronavirus administered orally, in order to generate immunity in the mucous membranes, the entry point for the virus.

The vaccine, which is in the preclinical phase, works with nanoparticles that contain the encapsulated and inactivated coronavirus. The group is also working on the development of a vaccine for peanut allergy using the same nanoparticle technology that generates immunity through mucosal administration.

Viral Vectors from Viralgen Vector Core and Zendal Group

The San Sebastian company works with international research groups, such as the Massachusetts General Brigham Hospital (MGB) and Harvard University, to produce a vaccine against the coronavirus through recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors (rAAV) used in gene therapy.

The modified virus is used as a vehicle to give the cells of the organism the necessary instructions to synthesize the necessary protein, in this case the ‘S’ protein or spike of the coronavirus, to generate the immune response. A similar technology is used by the Galician group Zendal, which brings together various biotechnology companies such as Biofabri. The latter has several vaccine manufacturing projects.

The Galician company collaborates with the development of the CSIC vaccine by Mariano Esteban and Juan García Arriaza. Esteban’s group uses the modified Ankara vaccinia virus (MVA) as a vector or vehicle that, in the same way as in the Viralgen vaccine, provides instructions to synthesize a coronavirus protein and activate the immune response.

IrsiCaixa and virus-like particles

The AIDS Research Institute IrsiCaixa collaborates jointly with scientists from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and the Animal Health Research Center of the Institute for Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA-CReSA). The objective is to investigate the antibodies generated against the coronavirus, as well as to develop drugs and vaccines against COVID-19.

The private foundation uses virus-like particles (VLPs) to develop a vaccine that is based on molecules similar to those of the coronavirus, but that are not infectious. These particles would have the virus ‘S’ protein on their surface, which would generate the immune response, but the symptoms of the disease would not develop.

The most advanced project to date is that of the Girona company Hipra. The company, which is in the process of recruiting volunteers, is investigating a vaccine that is based on two recombinant proteins of the Alpha and Beta variants. Likewise, publicly owned research groups, such as those of the CSIC, also work with different technologies to achieve the first Spanish product that manages to generate immunity against the coronavirus.