UAB-Linked Intranasal Coronavirus Vaccine Heads to Phase 1 Trials

(Source: UAB)

The University of Alabama at Birmingham and Altimmune, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced positive results Monday from preclinical studies of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Altimmune plans to start its first Phase I safety and immunity tests of the vaccine candidate, called AdCOVID, in humans later this year.

The vaccine candidate was tested at UAB in an intranasal spray in mice.

UAB researchers found a mouse immune response in the blood strong enough to neutralize the COVID-19 virus, as well as a potent immune response in the respiratory tract, the site first infected by the virus.

The vaccine creates an immune response against the COVID-19 virus spike protein that helps the virus bind to a human cell and start infecting others.

The Maryland-based Altimmune-UAB collaboration was announced March 30, and Frances Lund, Ph.D and chair of UAB Microbiology, made the work the highest priority for a team of 25 researchers.

“The goal,” she said in March, is to get the data to Altimmune as rapidly as possible, so they will use the information gained from the preclinical study, to design their clinical trial in people.”

Monday, Lund said: “I’m proud to be a member of the approximately 25 dedicated researchers from six different UAB laboratories who came together in the middle of this pandemic to generate, in less than four months, all of the infrastructure, reagents and data that will be used to design human clinical trials with the Altimmune vaccine.”

“The potent stimulation of mucosal immunity in the respiratory tract may be crucial to effectively block infection and transmission of the virus, given that the nasal cavity is a key point of entry and replication of the virus,” she added.

Intranasal dosing means the vaccine could be administered rapidly and without the need for needles, syringes or trained health care personnel, according to UAB. The vaccine’s expected room temperature stability may allow broad distribution of the vaccine without the need for expensive refrigeration or freezing, UAB officials said.