UAB to Test Potential COVID-19 Vaccine

Back view of Scientist testing Vaccine Coronavirus in Biosafety Cabinet. Source: UAB.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham and the biopharmaceutical company Altimmune Inc. will test a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the university announced today.

Testing of the vaccine, AdCOVID, which was developed by the company based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, will begin in mice during the second quarter of this year. That phase of testing, designed to show the immune response to the drug in mice, is expected to take one to two months, UAB said in announcing the collaboration.

The vaccine is given in a single dose of intranasal spray, UAB said. If results of the tests in mice warrant, Altimmune could launch a Phase 1 human safety trial during the third quarter of this year.

The announcement by UAB said Altimmune “has significant experience in the development of intranasal vaccine candidates for respiratory pathogens, including a seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine and a vaccine for inhalation anthrax.”

“We are eager to collaborate with Altimmune on this important project,” said Frances E. Lund, the Charles H. McCauley Professor and Chair for the UAB Department of Microbiology. “The expertise and infrastructure at UAB will be invaluable to the rapid progression of this vaccine into clinical studies.

Frances E. Lund. Source: UAB

Lund said six labs at UAB will work on the project.

Vipin K. Garg, president and CEO of Altimmune, cited UAB’s role in research in virology and immunology. He said the company was founded through a technology license from UAB in 1997.

“It is critical that the biotechnology industry and academic institutions work together to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and UAB is an ideal partner to support us in this effort,”Garg said.

UAB also has extensive experience in conducting clinical studies of vaccines and has participated in studies sponsored by the Vaccine Evaluation and Trial Unit, part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

The vaccine being tested “will activate mucosal and cellular immune responses, as well as a strong antibody response in the blood,” the announcement said.

“If the AdCOVID vaccine candidate is as stable as Altimmune’s influenza and anthrax vaccines candidates, that may allow inexpensive and efficient distribution of the millions of doses needed for widespread vaccination of populations,” the statement said.