Sask. research lab says its COVID-19 vaccine shows positive results in Phase 1 trial

·3 min read
Clinical trials for VIDO's COVID-19 vaccine began in Halifax in February, with testing to determine its safety to humans and antibody responses. (David Stobbe/VIDO-InterVac/University of Saskatchewan/Reuters - image credit)
Clinical trials for VIDO's COVID-19 vaccine began in Halifax in February, with testing to determine its safety to humans and antibody responses. (David Stobbe/VIDO-InterVac/University of Saskatchewan/Reuters - image credit)

Clinical trials for the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization's COVAC-2 vaccine are yielding some positive results, according to the University of Saskatchewan, where VIDO is based.

Interim data from Phase 1 clinical trials has demonstrated the vaccine was safe and well tolerated, the university said in a Wednesday news release.

"The most common general reaction reported was a headache and the most notable reaction was mild injection site pain," the release said.

"These reactions are common after most immunizations."

Even the lowest doses of vaccine tested so far have significantly increased the participants' antibody levels, including neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the university.

Dr. Volker Gerdts, director and CEO of VIDO, said the data continues to show the safety of the organization's vaccine. He said the vaccine's ability to generate immune responses was encouraging.

After so much effort through the pandemic, "it's rewarding to see that we have a vaccine and that in clinical trials, [it] looks very very positive," Gerdts said.

"It's still a lot of work to get it into the arms of Canadians at one point."

Clinical trials for the vaccine began in Halifax in February. A Phase 1 clinical trial involves the first tests on human volunteers, primarily to test for safety.

In Phase 3, the vaccine will be compared against a placebo or another vaccine to see how well it protects against COVID-19, a researcher at Halifax's Canadian Center for Vaccinology told The Canadian Press in February.

Gerdts said Wednesday's announcement marks the VIDO vaccine's step into Phase 2 of its clinical trial.

Participants are still being recruited for the clinical vaccine trials in Halifax and a new clinical trial site is to open in Saskatoon later this summer, the university's news release said.

Anyone who wants to volunteer and is 18 or older, has not been infected with COVID-19 and hasn't received an approved COVID-19 vaccine can call the clinical trial support unit at 306-978-8300 or email ctsu@usask.ca.

Gerdts said it's a bit more challenging now for vaccine manufacturers to find participants who match the criteria required, given there are already a number of approved vaccines in use and many people are already vaccinated.

However, he said he's optimistic opening a new site in Saskatoon to test VIDO's vaccine will help find some of the population who have yet to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

"We are excited to be partnering with VIDO to open this study site in Saskatoon," principal investigator Dr. Stephen Sanche, who teaches at the University of Saskatchewan, said in Wednesday's release.

"We are thankful for those in Saskatchewan that have already reached out to express their interest and are looking for more volunteers to complete the study."

Gerdts said the VIDO team is working to create a vaccine that's effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and all of its more contagious, and potentially more dangerous, variants of concern.

VIDO's COVAC-2 is a protein subunit vaccine, meaning it contains purified viral proteins that are not infectious. The technology offers some advantages, including a history of safe use and transport, the news release said.

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