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Friday, January 1, 2021

Novavax vaccine trials successful in monkeys !

                                        2020 has kept humans worrying all along .. .. now the count of Corona globally is : 5,56,24,562.

The dynamics in India has been changing.  India may have seen its peak in terms of Covid-19 cases in September, with the graph resolutely pointing downwards since then, but its capital city has not been able to rest easy. That is because Delhi, after already dealing with two spikes in new cases in June and September, has in November seen its worst figures yet. On November 19, the city recorded 7,546 new cases with 98 deaths, taking the total toll to 8,041. The highest number of cases had been reported on November 11 with around 8,593 cases. That week, the city recorded an average 7,000 fresh cases daily. On November 18, Delhi recorded 131 deaths, the highest so far because of the virus.  .. .. down South, Kerala is also reporting high number of cases, after the initial hype of successful control.

People react differently.  A week or so ago,  German police fired water cannon during an anti-lockdown rally in Frankfurt and eventually broke up the gathering as rules like wearing masks and socially distancing were not observed.  In Australia,  South Australia began a six-day lockdown with strictest restrictions in place. State Premier Steven Marshall said that lockdown is necessary to prevent the virus from spreading. The lockdown imposed by South Australia, is being considered as one of the strictest lockdowns as only one person from a household will be allowed to leave home each day and that too for essential reasons. … while Germany has 27,82,114 – the total number of people affected in Australia is 9,27,990.

India entered nineties – now the total is 90,95,806 though the live cases are much lower.  Maharashtra continues to be on top with 1774455; followed by Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

The World now awaits vaccines with bated breathe. Trial successes from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. have buoyed hopes that a Covid-19 vaccine is coming soon. But much of the world, outside of rich nations like the U.S., is counting on another company’s shot to escape the crisis. Findings from the final stage of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine studies are due to be released shortly, and the stakes for lower- and middle-income nations are immense. The shot developed with the University of Oxford accounts for more than 40% of the supplies going to those countries, based on deals tracked by London-based research firm Airfinity Ltd.  Astra vaccine costs a fraction of the price set by Pfizer and will be manufactured in multiple countries, from India to Brazil. It should be easier to deploy far and wide than other shots that need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. But if the U.K. partners can’t match the lofty efficacy levels Pfizer and Moderna delivered or roll out their inoculation quickly, the pandemic might continue spreading death and disease in countries relying on it.

The movie ‘Dasavatharam’ was all about a bio-synthetic virus developed in US lab for experimentation.  The extremely hazardous, superfast replicating virus contained in a vial would be consumed by a lab-monkey, ‘Anu’ which would bleed to death and Scientists would contain the spread with  Sodium Chloride (NaCl) – experimentation for the benefit of humans on a ‘monkey’.  Monkey is a common name that may refer to groups or species of mammals, in part, the simians of infraorder Simiiformes. The term is applied descriptively to groups of primates, such as families of New World monkeys and Old World monkeys. Many monkey species are tree-dwelling (arboreal), although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons.    The rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) is a species of Old World monkey. It is listed as least concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and lives  close to human settlements.

Not many would have read fully of - Novavax Inc stating a week or so ago, that  it is on track to begin a delayed US-based late-stage study of its experimental coronavirus vaccine later this month. The company also said the vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, had gained the US Food and Drug Administration's "fast-track" status and that expected data from the trial could support US authorization and approval. Novavax, which is testing the drug in a late-stage study in the UK, last month postponed the start of the U.S. trial by roughly a month, due to delays in scaling up the manufacturing process.  Novavax, Inc. is an American vaccine development company headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with additional facilities in Rockville, Maryland and Uppsala, Sweden.  

Now comes the encouraging news that a  company in the global race to produce a Covid-19 vaccine has raised hopes that its jab could stop humans spreading the virus to each other following successful trials in monkeys. Novavax told The Mail on Sunday that its vaccine 'prevented infection' between rhesus macaque monkeys in testing. The US pharmaceuticals firm is now going to study whether the vaccine could have the same effect in the human population – potentially helping to bring the pandemic to an end.  'If it happens in humans, that would be the dream scenario for a vaccine,' said Dr Gregory Glenn, president of research and development at Novavax.

Scientists last night described the breakthrough as 'exciting' but urged caution, warning of significant differences between the way viruses work in trials on monkeys and in human populations. The race to produce the earliest and most effective vaccine is reaching fever pitch, with a major announcement on trials by Britain's AstraZeneca and Oxford University expected within days. The promising results so far from US giants Pfizer and Moderna show their jabs should protect people from falling ill – but there is insufficient data on whether they stop the spread of Covid to others.  If asymptomatic people who have received a vaccine are still able to infect others, the virus could keep spreading. 

After a successful trial on mice, Novavax gave a dozen rhesus macaque monkeys two doses of its vaccine of varying strengths three weeks apart before infecting them with Covid. The virus did not make most of the animals sick as it did not appear in their noses. It only replicated in the lungs of one monkey, which received the lowest dose of the vaccine. That monkey fought off the infection in four days. Dr Glenn said the antibodies created by the vaccine had been 'so strong', they had created 'sterile immunity' – preventing the virus moving from the monkey's lungs to its nose and stopping the animals spreading Covid. The US pharmaceuticals firm is now going to study whether the vaccine could have the same effect in the human population. Monkeys are commonly used in US vaccine and drug studies and typically represent the last step before human clinical trials.  

The Novavax vaccine is being trialled in humans across the UK. The company initially began testing 9,000 people – including broadcaster Adrian Chiles, who has written about finding the experience 'weirdly fulfilling' – and is expanding the late-stage trial to 15,000 people. Initial results are expected early next year or potentially sooner. Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said the data on Novavax's trial was keenly awaited by scientists. He added: 'Human life is much more variable than a macaque monkey study in a lab, because we're all being infected with different doses all the time, whether you're standing in the supermarket queue or the pub. 'You don't know how it's going to play out in real life, but it's pretty exciting.'

Maryland-based Novavax, which has received funding from Microsoft founder Bill Gates' foundation and the US Government, was founded in 1987 and is relatively small compared to its vaccine rivals. It has never before brought a vaccine to market.  The UK has committed to 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which will be produced at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in County Durham.

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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