Scientists from the Immunology Laboratory of the Instituto do Coracão (Incor), of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (USP), develop a vaccine against Sars-CoV-2, a variety of the coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome. The director of the laboratory and coordinator of the project, Jorge Kalil, points out that the vaccine should not be ready soon, since the process involves rigorous safety tests.
The Incor laboratory team will also carry out tests on mice to prove the vaccine’s effectiveness. Then, it will seek to establish collaborations with other research institutions to finalize the development of the substance and develop a candidate for vaccine against Covid-19.
In an interview with Agency Brazil, Jorge Kalil said that it is not possible to specify when the vaccine will be launched, due to the series of protocols that must be followed to the letter. He also considered that “making a vaccine does not mean producing the vaccine”, but “the concept of the vaccine and how it will work”.
“Even the vaccines that are being made abroad, even if they start testing in humans in two, three months, it will hardly be available before a year and a half, two years, because you have to test, have the ability to to produce this vaccine industrially. First, you have to see if it is not toxic, then you have to see if it really induces neutralizing antibodies in humans, because sometimes, animal models that we use do not represent exactly what we find in humans. So, there are a series of steps that need to be done “, explained Kalil, who was former director of the Butantan Institute.
“Of course, nowadays, we have several technologies with which we can go very fast, but even so, we cannot pass all the safety tests, so that it does not cause more problems than it helps people. “, said.
According to the researcher, the proposal for this vaccine is different from what has been presented by specialists from other countries. The expectation is that the chosen method will allow the vaccinated person’s body to have a better defense response, that is, immunological, based on the recognition of virus-like particles (in English virus like particles). VLPs mimic the virus but, like him, do not have the capacity to multiply, said Kalil.
Kalil explained that together with the antigens, whose function is to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies, VLPs will be inoculated into the body of the immunized person. “When we build this viral particle, we’re going to put fragments of the most important protein in it to neutralize the virus, which is the viral spike protein, the outer part of the virus that looks like a flower and that sticks to the cell,” said Kalil, in reference to the crown that coronaviruses have and that defined its name.
“There are several types of vaccine that are used today in health programs. For example, the measles vaccine is a vaccine with an attenuated virus, that is, you leave the virus weak and inject it into the person, who produces antibody against that weak virus and those antibodies neutralize it. In the flu vaccine, we use a counter-technique. We produce a large amount of viruses, like here in Brazil, at the Butantan Institute, and then we kill this virus, inactive- o, and makes small fragments of the virus, destroys the virus, even, and injects people, which produce antibodies against the particles. These antibodies will neutralize the virus and it does not attack “, he explained.
“I can also make a vaccine like hepatitis, which is only the main protein of the virus that we inject. And we can also make a vaccine in which we give information to the organism of the main protein of the virus to neutralize it and, inside the organism, these nucleic acids express themselves, make the protein and we make antibodies against it. Our proposal is different “.
For Jorge Kalil, the countries that have most skillfully faced the coronavirus pandemic are China, Singapore and South Korea, this “because it made a diagnosis of people en masse and managed to isolate infected”.
The researcher said that the Italian government allowed the transmission to become “a catastrophe” and to reach an “exponential level”, which, according to him, can be repeated in Brazil, if government authorities do not take action. In the case of the United States, on the other hand, the assessment is that the government has been “neglecting the danger”, although it has a chance to mitigate part of the damage, as it has a significant amount of funds.
“What would be important is for us to unlock resources – it is very difficult for science in Brazil – so that we can work and also facilitate the import of all reagents, so that we do not waste time with a lot of bureaucracy and be able to bring whatever is necessary to Brazil, for people to work, whether in the vaccine, in the diagnosis, or to get results from other drugs, whatever “, emphasized Kalil.