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HKU’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate approved for human clinical trial

HKU’s State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases (photo credit: HKU)

The vaccine candidate against Covid-19 co-developed by HKU’s State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases (the SKL), has been approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) for human clinical trials.

The vaccine candidate has been produced in collaboration with Xiamen University and Wantai Biopharmaceutical company in mainland China.

It has been selected as one of the five vaccine technologies by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China for further evaluation. This flu-based COVID-19 vaccine is the first nasal spray COVID-19 vaccine to be tested in humans.

HKU’s researchers developed the vaccine candidate based on the established flu-based DelNS1 live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) platform. This vaccine strategy has several unique properties:

  • It is a flu-based vaccine and can combine with any seasonal flu vaccine strains.
  • It is live attenuated with the deletion of the key virulent element and immune antagonist, NS1, from the viral genome and is potentially more immunogenic than wild type influenza virus.
  • It can be produced in chicken embryonated eggs and MDCK cells which are proven production systems for influenza vaccines.
  • Its features are highly safe and is used as nasal spray to induce specific immunity in the airway of humans.

On Thursday, HKU’s microbiologist Professor Yuen Kwok-yung told Commercial Radio that the university had received HK$20 million funding from the government for the vaccine development. He said the first clinical trial is expected to start in November with around 100 healthy volunteers. After that, it would require another two clinical trials before the vaccine can be put into use which would take about one more year the fastest.

Read more from HKU’s press release, The Standard, RTHK

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