The Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University has received approval from Health Canada for human trials to proceed on their COVID-19 vaccine. Trials will be conducted by a Halifax research team, who were also involved in the trials which concluded in a vaccine for the Ebola virus.
Approval from the ethics bored has not yet been granted, however the researchers hope to have it in a few weeks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on 16 May that the Halifax researchers would be teaming up with a Chinese manufacturer, CanSino Biologics, to run the trials.
“The vaccine — Ad5-nCoV — is essentially a genetically modified adenovirus, carrying a spike protein specific to COVID-19 to help the human body prepare to identify and destroy the virus, according to the NRC. It says the Chinese company developed it using the HEK293 cell line — an NRC cell line licensed to it by Canada for the development of a Chinese vaccine against Ebola,” said Dalhousie University in a statement.
When the team did trials on the vaccine for the Ebola virus, they ended up being faced with an “emergency release” after which they did a third round of trials. The centre’s director, Dr. Scott Halperin, said that an emergency release of the COVID-19 vaccine could also take place in Canada, should it show potential and be deemed safe, according to Kimberly Bullentin.
“There’s a huge rush to get something out,” said Dr. Jeff Kwong, the interim director of the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto.
Presently, the researchers are looking for participants for the trial. Vice reported that the candidates should be “very healthy individuals” between the ages of 18 and 55. These criteria are for the first group of people in the trial. The second group will include people from 65 to 85 years old.
Halperin explained how the trials will proceed.
“We will be doing a Phase I/II clinical trial to first assess the safety and tolerability of the vaccine, secondly the immune response to the vaccine, first in younger adults and then older adults,” he said.
““We want to make sure that the vaccine is safe first in younger individuals before we go into people who may be at higher risk.”
Testing will be done in three phases, and they hope to start soon.