Scientists at Oxford University say their tests for a potential COVID-19 vaccine has so far proven effective on rhesus macaque monkeys, which were inoculated at a lab in Montana in May and stayed healthy for a full month despite repeated exposure to the virus, the New York Times reports.
While the findings don’t mean the vaccine will also work on humans, rhesus macaque monkeys are as close a test subject as can be used. The researchers hope to move forward with human testing on more than 6,000 people by the end of May.
Said The Times:
Most other teams have had to start with small clinical trials of a few hundred participants to demonstrate safety. But scientists at the university’s Jenner Institute had a head start on a vaccine, having proved in previous trials that similar inoculations — including one last year against an earlier coronavirus — were harmless to humans.
That has enabled them to leap ahead and schedule tests of their new coronavirus vaccine involving more than 6,000 people by the end of next month, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.
The Oxford scientists now say that with an emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses of their vaccine could be available by September — at least several months ahead of any of the other announced efforts — if it proves to be effective.
Now, they have received promising news suggesting that it might.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana last month inoculated six rhesus macaque monkeys with single doses of the Oxford vaccine. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the virus that is causing the pandemic — exposure that had consistently sickened other monkeys in the lab. But more than 28 days later all six were healthy, said Vincent Munster, the researcher who conducted the test.
The report of the new potential vaccine from Oxford came as biotech giant Gilead Sciences announced Wednesday that remdesivir, a drug used to treat Ebola, may also be useful in treating COVID-19.
The antiviral drug has been in tests with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID). The trial included 397 patients, evaluating the safety and efficacy of five-day and 10-day dosing regimens of remdesivir in hospitalized patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19.
“Gilead Sciences. Inc. is aware of positive data emerging from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) study of the investigational antiviral remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19. We understand that the trial has met its primary endpoint and that NIAID will provide detailed information at an upcoming briefing,” the company said in a statement.
Reaching the primary endpoint would mean that patients who took remdesivir recovered more quickly than those taking a placebo, <a href=”https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-treatment-gilead-says-positive-data-remdesivir-from-niaid-study-2020-4″>Business Insider</a> reported.
“Certainly it’s a very positive event,” President Trump said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said, “This is very optimistic, the mortality rate trended towards being better in the sense of less deaths in the REM designate group. 8% versus 11% in the placebo group. So bottom line. You’re going to hear more details about this this will be submitted to a peer reviewed journal, and will be peer reviewed appropriately.”
The company said there is still more work to be done.
“Remdesivir is not yet licensed or approved anywhere globally and has not yet been demonstrated to be safe or effective for the treatment of COVID-19. Gilead will share additional remdesivir data from the company’s open-label Phase 3 SIMPLE trial in patients with severe COVID-19 disease shortly. This study will provide information on whether a shorter, 5-day duration of therapy may have similar efficacy and safety as the 10-day treatment course evaluated in the NIAID trial and other ongoing trials. Gilead expects data at the end of May from the second SIMPLE study evaluating the 5- and 10-day dosing durations of remdesivir in patients with moderate COVID-19 disease,” Gilead said.
Gilead did not provide any more detail, but said an upcoming briefing by NIAID would offer “detailed information” about the results.