Even as the coronavirus is making people panic, Wall Street wither, and shuls and schools shut down, Israeli scientists have done it again. They have developed the world’s first vaccine against this epidemic, and if all goes as planned, it will be ready for testing in less than three months.
That’s the opinion of Ofir Akunis, Israel’s science and technology minister. Hopefully he’s right, because a solution for this horrific pandemic can’t come soon enough.
The vaccine was developed at the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute in Kiryat Shemona in northern Israel. MIGAL is the Israeli Science and Technology Ministry’s R&D center in the Galilee and is owned by the Galilee Development Company Ltd.
Every time a scientific breakthrough is made, a certain amount of luck is involved; the Israeli vaccine is no exception. Four years ago, MIGAL researchers began working on a coronavirus vaccine for infectious bronchitis, a deadly virus that affects poultry.
Their work was recently completed, and when it was, the researchers were delighted for two reasons. First, the clinical trials proved that the vaccine is effective. But there was an even more important reason for their gratification.
At that time, COVID-19, the coronavirus that affects humans, had just broken out and was beginning to spread rapidly in China and other countries. The Israeli scientists who developed the vaccine for poultry studied this virus, and they found that there were important similarities between the two, according to MIGAL spokesperson Ella Dagan.
More importantly, they also found that with only a small amount of tweaking, the poultry vaccine could be adapted to fight COVID-19. Now they are confident that an effective human vaccine can be readied in the very near future.
A Different Approach
Vaccines are often created by injecting dead or weakened viruses or germs into individuals. But MIGAL instead synthesized two proteins, an approach that presents very little danger that the patient will contract the disease.
According to Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotechnology group leader, “The vaccine is based on a new protein ... which forms and secretes a protein that delivers the viral antigen ...causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.”
Dr. Ehud Shahar, head of MIGAL’s immunology group, said the avian vaccine “will translate quite easily to a vaccine for humans because the principle is the same - to trigger the immune system to fight it.”
Testing so far has been very promising and the vaccine will be “fast-tracked” so it can be brought to the market as soon as possible. Even so, however, a human vaccine to prevent this plague will take some time until it becomes available.
Before this can happen, the prospective vaccine will have to get through a regulatory process, which means going from experiments in a lab to testing on animals. If this proves effective, it will then be tested on a very small number of people in very small doses. In subsequent stages, both the dosages and the number of people tested would be increased. If all of this works out as hoped, large-scale production would then commence. The first of these tests will begin in less than 90 days.
MIGAL is already in talks with investors and pharmaceutical companies to start production as soon as possible. “We have four years of research behind us and we are optimistic that we have a concept for a good vaccine that really works,” says Dr. Shahar. “Given the urgent global need for a human coronavirus vaccine, we are doing everything we can to accelerate development.”
Around The World...
Israel is not the only country fighting this battle. Companies in Canada, China, and Germany have also made a great deal of progress in researching a vaccine, and American Thinker reports that U.S. firms have, too.
One of those U.S. firms is Moderna Therapeutics, which has developed a synthetic virus that has been approved by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to test on humans, and this could begin in April.
Another U.S. firm, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, will soon have a treatment that will serve as a vaccine for people who don’t have coronavirus and a treatment for those who do. Their approach is to inject coronavirus antibodies directly into the bloodstream rather than creating a vaccine to achieve this objective. Regeneron used a similar treatment to prevent and cure Ebola.
Meanwhile, until the heavy artillery can be brought up to the front, other measures - some of them developed in Israel - are being used to keep people safe. For example, Israeli physician and inventor Noam Gavriely developed the ViriMASK, a new face mask that is not only safer and more comfortable for users than the paper masks used now, but that even can be washed and reused. ViriMASK could be especially helpful for people who work in healthcare, airports, and for those in quarantine.
And Soapy introduced an antiviral soap for its automatic handwashing units already widely used. Testing shows that a special plant-based ingredient used in its soaps can kill viruses that are even more resistant than corona.
These are helpful measures, to be sure, but the battle against this virus won’t be won until a vaccine is available, and in all likelihood that will take a year at a minimum. In other words, a big hurdle remains until the all-clear whistle can be sounded.
But there is reason for optimism. Literally every day, experts gain a better understanding of this virus, and every day they make progress in ways to treat and prevent it. While this will still take time, at least now there’s light at the end of the tunnel. That’s a lot more than could be said three months, two months, and even one month ago.
On a related note, many local businesses have taken a terrible hit in the last month. The proprietors are people who have served the community for years, and whom many of us have come to know on a personal basis. While it’s very easy and convenient to shop at large online discounters, is this not a time when other considerations should come into play? If at all possible, please show community support and patronize these merchants.
israel21c.org; jpost.com; nocamels.com;