A research team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine announced Thursday they believe they have found a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers believe the vaccine could be rolled out quick enough to "significantly impact the spread of disease," according to their study published in a Lancet publication, EBioMedicine.
When tested on mice, the vaccine — which would be delivered on a small, fingertip-sized patch — produced enough antibodies believed to successfully counteract the virus.
The scientists say they were already on the road to discovery, having done research on the similar coronaviruses SARS and MERS.
"These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus," co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine, said in the UPMC announcement.
"We knew exactly where to fight this new virus."
The vaccine follows the traditional approach of ordinary flu vaccines, using lab-made pieces of viral protein to build immunity.
While the mice have not been studied over a long period of time, the vaccine was able to deliver enough antibodies against the coronavirus within two weeks, according to the researchers.
The study's authors are now applying for an investigational new drug approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They hope to start human clinical trials within the next few months.
The vaccine would be "highly scalable" for widespread use, the researchers said in a UPMC announcement.
"For most vaccines, you don't need to address scalability to begin with," Gambotto said. "But when you try to develop a vaccine quickly against a pandemic that's the first requirement."
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