Italy to test Covid-19 vaccine on people in late April

By Laura Serrano-Conde

Rome, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- Italy is preparing a potential Covid-19 vaccine for a human clinical trial in late April and if successful the medication could be distributed globally as early as 2021, an expert told Efe Wednesday.

“We have finished the laboratory tests and now we will test the vaccine in more than 500 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 so that if it is a success it can be distributed worldwide as early as 2021,” Matteo Liguori, director of pharma research and development company IRBM, said.

Founded in 2009 in the town of Pomezia in Lazio, central Italy, IRBM is one of the most prestigious molecular biotechnology and biomedical science companies in the country and worked on the launch of an Ebola vaccine in 2014.

A team of IRBM scientists and technicians has been working with Advent to find Covid-19 vaccine.

They have just finished laboratory tests and are preparing to test doses in healthy people to see how their immune system reacts and possible levels of toxicity.

Human testing will be carried out at the end of April in the United Kingdom in collaboration with the Jenner Institute at Oxford University.

“We have collaborated with them for 10 years and from the beginning, we decided the tests would be carried out in the UK and not in Italy,” he said.

The first step of the process will see a team of scientists working to isolate the so-called “spike” protein, which is the key the virus needs to invade a human cell “to replicate its genetic material” and attach to host cells.

“This virus with the protein ‘spike’ will enter the human body to activate the immune system and generate antibodies,” he added.

More than 500 people have volunteered to undergo these clinical trials.

They are all healthy people, who will be tested to see if they have no previous antibodies, and later be isolated so they have no contact with anyone.

They will be monitored at all times by experts, scientists and doctors, who will observe how they react to the vaccine and will obtain data and then prepare reports on their body’s response.

If this first phase gives good results, Liguori plans to administer the vaccine in September, still in an experimental phase, to the most exposed sectors such as health professionals and law enforcement, while the final trials would continue until the vaccine is approved by medical authorities.

“In parallel, there would be an increase in production so that as many vaccines as possible could be distributed as early as 2021. If all goes well and works, the intention would be to make it available to all countries that need it, not just Italy, although it would depend on national health systems,” he said.

The company has been in talks with the Italian government so that, if there are no failures and results are positive, it can be distributed in Italy as soon as possible, especially to protect the most vulnerable people.

“It is a virus that advances very quickly and we know little about it. The scientific community has not had time to study it properly. It is a global problem that we will win globally, but we have to move quickly to find a cure to stop the spread,” Liguori added.

The coronavirus in Italy has claimed 21,067 lives, according to the latest official date, and 162,488 infections have been recorded since the first case was detected on 21 February. EFE-EPA


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