Scientists believe they are on the verge of producing a new COVID vaccine that could protect against all variants, including Omicron.
The vaccine – produced at Austria’s Medical University of Vienna – is said to contain boosters that strengthen the body’s immune system response.
The head of the project – Prof. Dr Rudolf Valenta from the Centre for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology – is so confident, he has injected himself with the vaccine five times.
Valenta told Austrian broadcaster ORF: “Our vaccine contains a boosting mechanism which has the potential to strengthen the immune response antigen shield.”
Valenta underlined that his team is still at an early stage of the process of developing a vaccine which could get the green lights from authorities.
He said intense clinical trials are still ahead, as well as the difficult search for an investor.
Valenta said robust financial support of the project could help kick off testing later this year.
The expert revealed that he had injected the new antigen-based vaccine himself last autumn five times.
Valenta told the ORF: “Examinations showed a very high antigen protection, much stronger than of those getting one of the common vaccines.”
He added that having tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year was proof of a decreasing protection of the potentially new vaccine after four months.
The Medical University of Vienna team of researchers announced that preclinical data for their vaccine indicate that it is effective against all SARS-COVID-19 variants known to date, including Omicron.
Pia Gattinger, a biotechnologist and immunologist at the Medical University of Vienna, explained: “We were able to determine which antibody response is the most protective one, ensuring that the virus won’t connect with the human cell.”
According to data from their study released in the journal Allergy, the vaccine they are working on is protecting so-called non-responders, a term describing individuals who have not yet built up any immunity as a result of vaccination.
The vaccine targets the receptor binding domains of the virus and induces a robust and uniform antibody response in animal models and in human tests.
This antibody response prevents the virus from docking onto and entering the body’s cells, so that infection cannot occur.
The development of this Austrian COVID-19 vaccine was, to a large extent, inspired by decades of experience in allergy vaccine design.
Valenta said: “Our data give us grounds to hope that this readily producible protein-based vaccine antigen will be effective against all SARS-COVID-2 variants known to date, including omicron.”
He added: “The vaccine is designed to enable repeated injections to build up sustained sterilizing immunity, is suitable for use in all age and risk groups and appears to be superior to currently available vaccines when it comes to inducing neutralising antibodies.”