The CSIC vaccine “is ready to become a reality in a few weeks,” according to the Government: what does this mean and how does it affect us
“This vaccine is of a technology that, inevitably, has to take longer than others and, is ready to become a reality in a few weeks“, said this morning the Minister of Science, Pedro Duque, on the vaccine being developed by the Higher Council for Scientific Research and thus have been echoed by numerous media.
However, this “start to become a reality in a few weeks”, as he himself pointed out below, has nothing to do with reaching hospitals or health centers. Not even with beginning advanced phases of clinical trials. “In a few weeks, [esperamos] already have all the elements with which we will begin to do the preclinical tests “, said the Minister. Although, in fact, some CSIC vaccines are already more advanced than that. What do we know and what can we expect exactly from the CSIC vaccine?
The CSIC’s MVA-CoV-2-S, explained in two minutes
Less than a month ago, the prestigious’Journal of Virology‘published the results in mice of MVA-CoV-2-S, the vaccine candidate developed by the team of Mariano Esteban and Juan García Arriaza at the National Center for Biotechnology of the CSIC. This vaccine, the most advanced of those developed by the Council, uses a virus as a vehicle to introduce the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 into the body and stimulate immune defenses.
Unlike other vaccines that use similar technologies, instead of using vehicles from the adenovirus family, MVA-CoV-2-S uses a variant of the virus that was used to eradicate smallpox: the modified vaccinia virus of Ankara (MVA).
The results were very good. As could be seen in the magazine, “The vaccine confers 100% protection against SARS-CoV-2 in a humanized mouse model susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2”; that is, the preclinical studies allowed to conclude “that the vaccine candidate MVA- CoV-2-S generates a robust immune response with production of neutralizing antibodies and activation of T lymphocytes in mice. ”The next step was request permission from the Spanish Medicines Agency to start phases I / II of clinical trials (if all goes well) in the coming weeks.
Why is the CSIC vaccine slower?
From the previous section it can be deduced that, in the best of cases, there is almost a year left for the vaccine to be authorized. Pedro Duque said that this CSIC vaccine used a technology that was “unfailingly” slower than the rest and he was right.
In general, laboratories with the capacity to develop vaccines tend to be highly focused research teams on a specific vaccine. The one with Esteban and Arriaza has been working with highly attenuated strains of vaccinia virus for years and, in fact, the group has developed vaccines for other emerging viruses such as Chikungunya, Zika or Ebola.
However, by means and methodology, the team’s work is not thinking for as fast as we have needed during this pandemic. It is not something especially surprising when we consider the story of another known vaccine, AstraZeneca. The Oxford technology that made it possible to quickly generate a vaccine with an adenovirus arose precisely from a failure. The problems caused by the development of the Ebola vaccine in 2014 or the MERS vaccine in 2015.
Given this, at Oxford they decided to work at a technology fast enough that could respond proactively in an epidemic short. All other systems and technologies are slower. Some are just a little slower (Jensen’s vaccine, which uses technology from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is about to be approved and Russian Sputnik, just to comment on those that use viral vectors, it is also giving good results), others may take years of work.
In any case, the interesting thing about the CSIC vaccines is perhaps not their ability to arrive in time in this epidemic, but rather a clear example that Spain must begin to reflect on its biotechnological capacity. Josep Borrell said that the coronavirus crisis had taught Europe “that did not produce a gram of paracetamol“; in this sense, the race for the development of vaccines must make us think what tools we need in such a competitive world.
Picture | Hospital Clinic