As soon as the genetic code of the virus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, was deciphered and published, scientists all over the planet rushed to find a vaccine against the new attack. And we have something to be proud of: the first encouraging results were able to our fellow Israelis, the employees of the research Institute MIGAL Galilee. And the direct synthesis of the latest of the vaccine was studied Microbiology Dr. Nadia Gruzdev graduated from Hebrew University, a child who came to Israel from St. Petersburg in the years of the great aliyah.
– How did you manage to get ahead of other research laboratories?
– Due to the fact that during the last four years the project, funded by the ministries of economy and agriculture, we have developed a vaccine against the coronavirus attacks the chickens, says Nadia Gruzdev in an interview with “Details”. – This virus has long been known and is causing serious damage to the Israeli poultry industry.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that affect not only humans but also animals and birds. Some coronaviruses cause people have light colds, sometimes bronchitis. Coronaviruses have similar structure, and proteins that their actinically, is also similar.
Our laboratory, in collaboration with other laboratories of our Institute have developed a vaccine that successfully passed all stages of testing. Its advantage is that we created antigens are able to induce not only systemic immune reaction of the body, but also stimulate the local production of antibodies at the site of infection. After the virus enters the host organism (human or animal) through the mucous membranes of the respiratory system, the esophagus, etc. and, as shown by experiments, our vaccine allows the body to destroy the virus at a very early stage, locally, at the site of penetration.
And, equally important, we have managed to create not just a vaccine, and a universal platform upon which to build recombinant proteins, active against other types of coronaviruses.
Dr. Nadia Gruzdev. Photo: Institute MIGAL
– But is it for vaccine production does not need a specific strain of the virus?
Vaccines are of different types. One type is the vaccine virus, previously put to death or weakened. It’s like a simulation of infection. The body fights this virus, defeats him, and thus learns to produce antibodies against it. In this way he created the vaccine in the past.
A more modern approach is to use not the whole virus, but only its active part, a specific protein that can cause a strong immune response. Doing our lab. We study the composition and structure of a particular protein of the virus, synthesize it and get the antigen which would facilitate the production of antibodies, that is protective proteins in the host organism.
A few weeks ago appeared the first results of international studies of the virus SARS-CoV-2. Is a database that is continuously updated and refined. And then we saw that the protein we have developed for the poultry industry for the vaccination of chickens has a similar structure with the active protein of the coronavirus which has caused the current epidemic. And because our vaccine has already successfully passed clinical trials on chickens, it was decided to focus efforts on the development of a vaccine against the current coronavirus affecting humans.
The work involved a group of our laboratories, each with its own specialty. This laboratory of immunology that studies the functioning of the immune system, biological self-defense mechanisms of the organism and ways of immunotherapy. And laboratory of bioinformatics, which develops methods and software tools for the analysis of biological data. Finally, our laboratory, which specializiruetsya on the protein synthesis in bacteria.
– What are the main project participants?
The idea of creating a platform for protein synthesis – Professor Yakov Petkovski, immunologist and specialist in the field of Virology, the scientist with a world name. Together with him the project was created by immunologist Dr. Ehud Shahar. Participated in the organization of the project and the head of my laboratory, which is engaged in the design of proteins – Dr. Hyun Katz. Building three-dimensional models, the study of the possibilities of synthesis of a protein and the test immunological response provides the doctor Itay Fleas. Another laboratory is engaged in the production of protein under the direction of Dr. Itamar Yadid, of. At the moment they begun to optimize the process of protein synthesis in industrial quantities. I also want to mention Dr. Avishai Lublin from the Veterinary Institute. Under his leadership, the experiments were conducted on hens.
Employees of the Institute MIGAL
– How is your vaccine going to be tested?
– I want again to draw attention to the fact that the current approach allows to deal not with the whole virus, but only part of it – with the protein, which causes the body’s immune response. Verification takes place in several stages. First “in vitro”, in vitro. We have techniques that allow to understand how the synthesized protein can mimic the effects of the virus on the body, how can he “know” these or other receptors.
The next step – preclinical trials. This is usually tested on animals. And if this stage is passed successfully, will start clinical human trials.
I want to emphasize one important aspect. If our vaccine is approved, it will not be a routine vaccination in the form of injection, and spray, spray, spray. As I mentioned, one of the advantages of our vaccine – the ability to cause miconazole immunity, i.e. the production of antibodies in the site of infection, where a virus tries to enter the body, for example, in the respiratory tract.
Our Institute has already filed an application to the Ministry of health to conduct clinical trials of our vaccine. According to our experts, in case of success after a few months it will be possible to start industrial production.
Alexander Averbukh, “Details”. Photos provided by the Institute MIGAL
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