The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has held the whole world under siege. Unfortunately, this isn’t a movie where scientists develop a vaccine before the longest possible time and everything returns to normal.

At this material time, there is no definitive treatment or vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 and the scientific community is feverishly in search of answers.

Dating back to 2015, the World Health Organisation issued its list of top pathogens that may cause severe outbreaks. These  include;

  • Ebola
  • Lassa and
  • Coronaviruses.

Presently, there are more than 56 vaccine projects ongoing against SARS-CoV-2 within this short period. In the following segments, we’ll focus on the top contenders.

What are the top contending coronavirus vaccines?

Coronavirus vaccine

The enigmatic coronavirus outbreak began like news in the Chinese city of Wuhan just in December 2019. Today, it has a fast spread to other countries and continents, endangering millions. Inadvertently, the pandemic has necessitated pharmaceutical companies and research organizations to rise to the occasion.

Prior to current technological advancement, it would probably have taken 15 to 20 years for scientists to come up with a coronavirus vaccine. Usually, the stages follow the sequence of:

  • Exploration
  • Pre-clinical testing
  • Clinical development
  • Regulatory review and approval
  • Manufacturing( mass production) and
  • Quality control

But that was in the past! Today, the timeline has strikingly gone from 20years to 18months.

Thus far, the search for a coronavirus vaccine has yielded laudable results. Here are the top runners :

AdCOVID by Altimmune

Altimmune is a US-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical firm focused on developing treatments for liver disease and immune-modulating therapies. Altimmune, in collaboration with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) seeks to develop a single dose intra-nasal vaccine for COVID-19.

The conglomerate would work with other researchers to conduct preclinical animal studies and phase one clinical trial in the third quarter of 2020.

AT-100 by Airway Therapeutics

Airway Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company whose methodology has revolutionized and breaks the cycle of injury due to inflammation in patients with respiratory diseases. The human recombinant protein, AT-100 (rhSP-D), is merely a protein replacement therapy targeting Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia.

The company has publicized a filing with the Respiratory Diseases Branch of the National Institutes of Health to weigh the pros and cons of the new regimen which is a more robust solution as it’s also spawned an immune response against various respiratory diseases.

Avian Coronavirus Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) vaccine by MIGAL Research Institute

The MIGAL Research Institute indigenous to Israel announced a tweak in the Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) vaccine developed to treat avian coronavirus. The plan is to make it suitable for COVID-19 and subsequently available in oral form. 

The vaccine has demonstrated efficacy in preclinical trials conducted by the Volcani Institute. The institute has insight potential partners for producing the vaccine in the next eight to ten weeks and facilitating the necessary safety approvals for in-vivo testing.

ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 by University of Oxford

The University of Oxford has an international reputation for research excellence. Their ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 coronavirus vaccine is classified as a non-replication adenovirus vaccine vector. 

The university is currently planning a clinical trial to be conducted in the Thames Valley Region in South East England. About 510 volunteers aged between 18 years and 55 years will be enrolled for the study.

Coronavirus vaccine by Medicago

Medicago in collaboration with Laval University’s Infectious Disease Research Centre developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 after having produced a plant-derived Virus-like Particle (VLP) of the coronavirus.

Virus-like particles are used to create plant-based vaccines, which typically mimic viruses. Its primary role is to enable the body’s immune system to recognize them and trigger immune response.

Fusogenix DNA vaccine by Entos Pharmaceuticals

Entos Pharmaceuticals is a Canadian pharmaceutical company recognized with the development of the next-generation nucleic acid-based therapies. Using their proprietary Fusogenix drug delivery system, they’ve fabricated a proteo-lipid vehicle that introduces genetic payload directly into cells.

These are merely optimized viral information containing multiple protein epitopes that are gotten from SARS-CoV-2 proteins. The vaccine if approved for mass inoculation will stimulate an immune response in the body to prevent COVID-19 infection.

Gimsilumab by Roivant Sciences

Roivant Sciences pride themselves as the first pivotal study for an anti-GM-CSF (a type of signal to a molecule (a cytokine) that is secreted from immune cells). Gimsilumab has advanced to clinical-stage. The idea is to develop a human monoclonal antibody (antibodies that are made by identical immune cells cloned from a unique parent cell).

The preparation targets granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). This factor is a pro-inflammatory cytokine found in a notable amount in the serum of COVID-19 patients. The regimen is expected to reduce lung damage and consequently the mortality rate in COVID-19 patients.

INO-4800 by Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology

INO-4800 is an innovative creation of Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology Company. Their work is funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to a tune of $9m as a grant. CEPI is a global alliance, financier, and coordinator for the development of vaccines against emerging diseases.

Presently, the preclinical trials are uncompleted even when the design for human clinical trials have been completed. Consequently, the company has formulated 3,000 doses of the vaccine for human clinical trials scheduled for testing across the US, China, and South Korea. There are also plans to scale-up manufacturing for global use.

Inovio Pharma’s INO-4700

Perhaps the investigational DNA immunotherapy, INO-4700 (GLS-5300) is the most talked-about of all the vaccine candidates. This grand vaccine is developed by Inovio in collaboration with GeneOne Life Science. The DNA plasmid vaccine is delivered intramuscularly using Cellectra® delivery device.

Clinical trials demonstrated that the vaccine was well-tolerated with high immune responses against the MERS-CoV. About 94% of patients in the early-stage clinical trial in July 2019 should positive results. Similarly, a broad-based T cell response was noticed in 88% of the subjects.  

Inovio Pharma’s vaccine is proudly supported by American Billionaire, Bill Gates through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Linear DNA Vaccine by Applied DNA Sciences and Takis Biotech

Applied DNA Sciences’ supplementary arm of LineaRx and Takis Biotech collaborate on a joint course to use a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)-based DNA manufacturing technology to develop a coronavirus vaccine. This technology (PCR) is the most promising approach.

Several advantages include; high purity, increased production speed, and absence of other contaminants. Additionally, the vaccine could exert its effect through this technology without being inserted into the patient’s genome.

mRNA-1273 vaccine by Moderna and Vaccine Research Center

In mid-April 2020, Moderna proclaimed an award from U.S. government agency BARDA for up to $483 million to accelerate the development of mRNA-1273. To execute this mandate, Moderna is collaborating with the Vaccine Research Center, a unit of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The partnership seeks to develop a vaccine for coronavirus that targets the Spike (S) protein of the coronavirus. The S protein complex is a compulsory component of the virus necessary for membrane fusion and host cell infection. The prototype of the vaccine has already been manufactured at Moderna’s Massachusetts manufacturing plant and shipped to NIAID for phase one human clinical trial.

The ongoing trial began on 16 March at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington. Consequently, a total of 45 participants enrolled in the trial. The participants were divided into three cohorts who were given 25 micrograms (mcg), 100mcg or 250mcg dose 28 days apart.

Novavax’s MERS coronavirus vaccine candidate

Back in June 2013, ROCKVILLE Md. – Novavax announced the successful production of a vaccine candidate for novel Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus sequel to the identification of the first MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Today, this botched vaccine is very much effective against COVID-19.

The candidate’s robust vaccine is intended to mainly bind to the key surface S-protein. This schematic was developed with the help of the company’s recombinant nanoparticle vaccine technology. During the trial, the coronavirus vaccine was tested along with the Novavax’s branded adjuvant Matrix-M.

The outcome was promising as it was observed to inhibit infection by inducing immune responses in laboratory studies. The coronavirus vaccine is a crucial target of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Recently, Novavax received $4m in aid from CEPI to facilitate the development of the vaccine. As a result, the company has created a number of nanoparticle vaccine contenders for testing in animal models with the final goal of carrying out human trials in 2020.

Recombinant subunit vaccine by Clover Biopharmaceuticals

Clover Biopharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biotechnology company headquartered in Chengdu, China is developing a recombinant subunit vaccine using its Trimer-Tag© technology. The Native like Trimeric subunit Spike Protein vaccine(S-Trimer) is developed against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

This segment of the virus is responsible for binding with the host cell and causing a viral infection and subsequent replication. By means of Trimer-Tag© technology, the company effectively fashioned the subunit vaccine in mammalian cell culture. Clover also isolated antigen-specific antibodies in the serum of fully recovered patients.

All the participants hitherto were infected by the coronavirus. The very much refined version of the S-Trimer vaccine is probable by six to eight weeks for the next phase which is the preclinical studies. The best part, the company is well-found with in-house cGMP biomanufacturing know-hows to scale-up production.

TJM2 by I-Mab Biopharma

I-Mab Biopharma is a dynamic and fast-growing global biotech company in the therapeutic fields of immuno-oncology and autoimmune diseases. Their recent project involves the development of a regimen known as TJM2. This is a neutralizing antibody, which acts as a treatment for cytokine storm in patients with coronavirus infection.

Just like Gimsilumab, the drug targets the human granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF).

TNX-1800 by Tonix Pharmaceuticals

Tonix Pharmaceuticals headquartered in New York has partnered with Southern Research, a non-profit research organization to develop a coronavirus vaccine named TNX-1800.  This vaccine is an improved horse pox virus developed using Tonix’s brand-named horse pox vaccine.

TNX-1800 is intended to force out a protein derived from the coronavirus that causes the infection. Southern Research is levied with the responsibility of evaluating the efficacy of the vaccine, under the partnership.

Vaxart’s coronavirus vaccine

Vaxart employs the Non-Replicating Viral Vector platform in developing an oral (tablet formulation) recombinant vaccine. The company is hoping to develop vaccines based on the recently published genome of 2019-nCOV. This is to be tested in preclinical models for mucosal and systemic immune responses. The vaccine is promising and WHO has listed it as a vaccine candidate against the novel virus.


Developing the right vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 would seem to be the greatest biomedical achievement of the 21st century.

Although achieving global immunization is a far cry from the conspiracy theories holding sway against the COVID-19 pandemic, the goal of immunization against coronaviruses is to fight back, unlock the world’s economy, and improve individuals’ and public health.

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