Homeland Security News Wire: COVID-19 Virus Isolated … Better Testing, Treatments, Vaccines Are Near

Researchers from left, Dr. Robert Kozak, Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Arinjay Banerjee have isolated the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. Courtesy/McMaster University

From Homeland Security News Wire:

A team of researchers from Sunnybrook Health Science Center in Toronto, McMaster University, and the University of Toronto(opens in a new window) has isolated severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

Sunnybrook says that the team was able to culture the virus from two clinical specimens in a Level 3 containment facility.

“We need key tools to develop solutions to this pandemic. While the immediate response is crucial, longer-term solutions come from essential research into this novel virus,” said Dr. Samira Mubareka, microbiologist and infectious diseases physician at Sunnybrook.

The isolated virus will help researchers in Canada and across the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and vaccines, and gain a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 biology, evolution, and clinical shedding.

“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” said Dr. Rob Kozak, clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”

Dr. Arinjay Banerjee, NSERC post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University, said he knows the collaboration won’t stop there.

“Now that we have isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we can share this with other researchers and continue this teamwork,” he said. “The more viruses that are made available in this way, the more we can learn, collaborate and share.”

Friday, Paul Hodgson, associate director of business development at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Center in Saskatoon, confirmed to The Globe and Mail that the joint federal-provincial facility had quietly reached the same milestone a few weeks earlier and is now using its version of the virus for a vaccine development effort.

Samples of the Saskatoon-derived version of the coronavirus are now available for approved research groups through the National Microbiological Laboratory in Winnipeg. The Ontario group also plans to generate its version for distribution.

Medicago Produces Viable Covid-19 Vaccine Candidate

Medicago, a biopharmaceutical firm based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, announced Thursday that it has produced a Virus-Like Particle (VLP) of the novel coronavirus, marking the first step in Covid-19 vaccine development.

The vaccine candidate, produced in 20 days of receiving SARS-CoV-2 gene, will be subjected to preclinical testing for safety and efficacy.

Medicago is planning to launch human trials in July or August.

The company, leveraging its plant-based technology platform, is working on developing Covid-19 antibodies in alliance with the Infectious Disease Research Center at Laval University in Québec, Canada.

Medicago has some experience in quickly developing tools for fighting pandemics. In 2009 the company generated a research-grade vaccine candidate against H1N1 in 19 days, and in 2015 it also produced an anti-Ebola monoclonal antibody cocktail.