Auburn Professor to Start COVID-19 Vaccine Testing

Dr. Constantinos S. Kyriakis. Source: Auburn University

An Auburn University professor will soon begin testing new COVID-19 vaccines to see how they work alone or with other ingredients to help slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Constantinos Kyriakis, an associate professor for the College of Veterinary Medicine, will head the testing while working with Professor Ted Ross, the director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at the University of Georgia. Kryiakis will begin animal trials to investigate the effectiveness of different vaccine candidates.

The testing will involve vaccine candidates’ effectiveness at triggering an immune system response in pigs. The tests will see what other ingredients could trigger a greater immune system response, in order to make the most effective vaccine.

“Mass vaccinations will help build what is known as ‘herd immunity,’ the cornerstone of infectious disease control,” Kyriakis said in a press release.

Herd immunity is a term that describes a population with a high number of individuals who are immune to a disease.

“This will not only protect individuals from SARS-CoV-2 infection and reduce virus spread, but it will protect the entire community and, importantly, high risk groups such as the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions,” Kyriakis said.

Nearly 2 million people worldwide have confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to information from Johns Hopkins University.

Several countries have begun developing a vaccine for COVID-19, and finding a vaccine will protect millions of people, but this still poses a major challenge to the scientific community. There is currently no vaccine for humans and only limited data from experimental vaccine trials from past small-scale coronavirus outbreaks.

Kyriakis is one of several Auburn veterinary medicine faculty members who are working on the COVID-19 pandemic. The veterinary program studies the linkages between animals and humans, and this intersection of human and animal medicine is critical in developing a vaccine and saving lives.

“Using reliable animal models allows us to identify target antigens, optimize our vaccine dose and formulation, and select the most promising vaccine candidates for human clinical trials,” Kyriakis said. “These steps are critical in identifying safe, effective vaccines and moving them into production as quickly as possible.”