A prospective oral coronavirus vaccine is set to start clinical trials in Israel, and the developer believes it could help get vaccines to countries that are struggling to inoculate because of limited infrastructure.
Oramed Pharmaceuticals has created a single-dose oral version of a prospective vaccine being developed by India-based Premas Biotech, and in March announced that it had successfully generated antibodies in pigs.
It hopes that the Israeli-developed pill will be suitable as a simple initial vaccination, as it won’t need to be stored at low temperatures and eliminates the need to have professionals administering injections.
This could be a “game changer” in countries like India, where only 5 percent of the population has been vaccinated, said Nadav Kidron, CEO of Oramed.
He anticipates the technology could help healthcare providers meet the possible challenge of providing booster shots — increasingly discussed as the Delta variant rampages in some countries — and believes pills will be particularly useful for such a task. He considers the formula particularly robust in the face of new variants.
Israel has already started giving booster shots to the immunocompromised, and health officials in many parts of the world are talking about the possibility of boosters for all. Meanwhile, there is a growing suggestion in medical circles that booster shots may not need to be of the same vaccine formula as one’s initial shots, and there may even be benefits to a mix-and-match approach.
Kidron told The Times of Israel he feels an urgency to get the product approved and in the hands of health providers, given the prospect of demand for boosters and the lack of vaccines in parts of the world.
“Our oral vaccine, which doesn’t rely on a deep freeze supply chain, unlike other coronavirus vaccines, could mean all the difference between a country being able to emerge from the pandemic or not,” he told The Times of Israel.
“Particularly in areas hard-hit by the virus that have not yet vaccinated their populations, an oral COVID-19 vaccine could be a game changer.”
Oramed has now received approval from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center to start a clinical trial on 24 unvaccinated volunteers, and will monitor whether the vaccine pill prompts them to generate antibodies, and, if so, to what level.
The company said it expects to start the trial for its Oravax pill next month, as soon as final approval is received from the Health Ministry.
Kidron said that his vaccine targets three SARS CoV-2 virus surface proteins, while most others target just one, and added that it targets proteins that are not prone to mutation, and suggested this will keep the vaccine effective in the face of new variants.
“Our vaccine is a particularly strong candidate against the evolving COVID-19 virus due to its unique targeting of three proteins rather than one,” he said.