A group of South African scientists have designed and developed the first COVID-19 vaccine of African origin, called Shantivax, reports IoL. Port Elizabeth-based immunotherapy company, Genlab, together with Danish biotechnology company, Immunitrack, have created a “next generation vaccine” that will elicit both an antibody and T-cell response.
“It will completely change the way the world perceives Africa in terms of innovation. We have a vaccine by Africa, for Africa and the developing world,” said CEO of Genlab, Kamsellin Chetty.
“Next generation vaccines” are vaccines that have adapted and evolved from current vaccines to be safer and more effective. “It’s the first time that the concept and design for a COVID-19 vaccine has come from South Africa,” said Chetty.
The Shantivax prototype is currently undergoing pre-clinical testing.
IoL reports that Shantivax can be administered through the skin into the bloodstream where it should elicit an antibody response and will use nanotechnology to travel from the bloodstream to the site of infection within the lung. The vaccine can reside in the lung for a number of years while it continuously provides stimuli for the immune system to identify and neutralise COVID-19 before it replicates intensively.
Once the Shantivax vaccine has passed clinical trials, Chetty says they are hoping to outsource production to the Serum Institute of India (SII). “The company has the capacity to produce a bacterial vaccine of this nature,” he is quoted in the report as saying.
Chetty says in a further IoL report that Shanti is the ancient Sanskrit word for peace and that he is very happy with the way the vaccine prototype has been designed.
The “next generation” vaccine has evolved from current vaccines to be safer and more effective. It will elicit both antibodies and T-cells. Clinical trials for the vaccine will take place within the next ten months, he said, and will be split between Johannesburg and Durban.
“We will not compromise ethics and the safety of human beings for profit or unreasonable timelines that sacrifice good science. We are self-funded, we do not have to compromise our principles and ethics for shareholders, government, academia or any such organisation,” he said.
The vaccine can be injected in the skin where it should elicit an antibody response and will use nanotechnology to travel from the bloodstream to the site of infection within the lung.
“Shantivax is a nano engineered live, attenuated, recombinant bacteria that has been designed to elicit a highly specialised respiratory immune response referred to as type I and type III interferon responses,” said Chetty.
According to Chetty here is what sets the Shantivax apart from other vaccines:
Other vaccines have “targeted” the S protein (the actual target is called the epitope). Shantivax will target all 4 structural proteins that are “visible” to the immune system. This includes the S, E, M and N proteins.
The core of the vaccine (the vector) and the nanotechnology has been designed to stimulate both the primary immune cell (like T-cells), as well as antibodies. These reasons are why Shantivax is considered to be “next generation”.
According to the report, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) said that while it has not received any communication or applications for the vaccine, it could be beneficial for the country to develop its own vaccine.
Spokesperson Yuven Gounden said: “SAHPRA would consider applications which meet the acceptance requirements for quality, safety and efficacy. The decisions taken are science-based and not on the origin of the scientists”.
Full IoL report (Open access)
Full IoL report (Open access)