Taiwan's DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine passes animal testing hurdle

Vaccine can effectively inhibit virus replication, causes 99% reduction of virus quantity in hamsters

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(AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — One of Taiwan's COVID-19 DNA-based vaccine candidates has been shown to cause a significant decline in the amount of virus in the lungs of animals being tested.

Taiwan's National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) announced on Monday (Aug. 10) that it has made progress on a gene-based vaccine co-developed with the Taichung-based biotech company Enimmune. Animal tests have shown that the amount of coronavirus in the lungs of infected hamsters inoculated with the candidate vaccine, developed through genetic engineering, is far smaller than in those uninoculated.

The uninoculated hamsters experienced a loss of weight and vitality. The inoculated hamsters did not.

Virus replication was effectively inhibited among the inoculated hamsters, which resulted in a 99 percent reduction of the amount of virus in the creatures, indicating that the vaccine offers excellent protection. In a signal that the vaccine is fairly safe, a high level of T helper type 1 cells (Th1) were generated among the inoculated hamsters as well.

The advantage of gene-based vaccines over traditional vaccines is that they can be quickly churned out, the NHRI said.

The institute can begin human trials very soon, and the gene-based vaccine is likely to become the world's first effective DNA vaccine if the trials go well, according to an Eimmune employee at Monday's press conference.