CanSino Biologics became known to the wider public for being the first manufacturer to begin work on a COVID-19 vaccine back in mid-March.
In their first Phase 1 study, 108 participants were divided into three dosage groups. Results showed the majority of participants did develop immune responses.
The Ad5 vectored COVID-19 vaccine is tolerable and immunogenic at 28 days post-vaccination. Humoral responses against SARS-CoV-2 peaked at day 28 post-vaccination in healthy adults, and rapid specific T-cell responses were noted from day 14 post-vaccination. Our findings suggest that the Ad5 vectored COVID-19 vaccine warrants further investigation.
However, as experts have warned, the metric of antibody production is not directly correlated with immunity. It is possible that antibodies can correctly identify a pathogen, but not act as a "neutralizing" antibody by triggering an immune response. More data and more time is needed to truly understand if antibody production comes with immunity.
The rapid and potentially damaging development of the vaccine is exemplified this line from Dr. Anthony Fauci
“We would start manufacturing vaccines before we know that it even works or not, which means that you’ve picked up several months, instead of waiting to see if the vaccine works,”
Computer-aided vaccine design
According to Chemical & Engineering News, companies like CanSino are joined by Moderna and Inovio in their ability to model vaccines genetically. Traditional approaches require the actual cultivation of the pathogen for processing as a vaccine. In a gene-based vaccine, the DNA or mRNA sequence can be loaded into software to design in a fraction of the time.
“It took less than 3 hours to complete....and we started the preclinical development process on day 1.” said Joseph Kim, CEO of Inovio pharmaceuticals.
Chinese and American manufacturers lead the way on vaccine development with at least one Chinese group predicting a viable vaccine before the end of the year while experts largely agree there is no clear winner in the race to get a vaccine to market.