Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko Associated Press
According to Dr. Bruce Clark, a more likely scenario is that a vaccine will be part of the solution, alongside new treatments and public health interventions in progress.
The clinical trials have just begun for a possible vaccine against the COVID-19, but its québec-based manufacturer minimizes its potential impact.
Dr. Bruce Clark, president and chief executive officer of the biopharmaceutical company Medicago, cautions observers against the unrealistic expectations that the product or one of the many vaccines in development at the global level — can quickly put an end to the pandemic.
“Regardless of the vaccine that we will obtain during this first round — barring a miracle -it will not be perfect,” said Mr. Clark, whose company has begun testing on humans for its vaccine on Monday, in Quebec city. “It will be necessary that there is development, it will probably take years to arrive at an understanding of the right vaccine, the right approach. This is not the panacea. “
“Believing that we can have, in 18 months, the solution to a pandemic that occurs once a generation is naive. “
There are still a lot of unknown around the COVID-19, note by Mr. Clark, including the manner in which it may occur during the flu season later this year.
According to him, a more likely scenario is that a vaccine will be part of the solution, alongside new treatments and public health interventions in progress.
The first phase of clinical trials of Medicago will test a herbal product on 180 men and women who are in good health, aged 18 to 55 years.
The study randomized, single-blind, uses a technology that does not involve animal products, or live virus such as the traditional methods.
Mr. Clark noted that the developers of vaccines generally use chicken eggs, but the Company has instead opted for a technology recombinant involving the genetic sequence of a virus, with, as a host, and live plants.
The particles of a virus type that result mimic the shape and dimensions of a virus, allowing the body to recognize and trigger an immune response.
Bruce Clark said that the herbal approach is much faster and provides more consistent results than the methods of egg-based or cell-based.
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While it takes five to six months to spread a virus in eggs, the technique-based plant requires only five to six weeks, ” he says. “In a pandemic, such as that of the COVID, if you are able to remove as much of the development time, you will have a substantial impact on public health. “
Dr. Clark states that viruses are subject to mutations when they are able to adapt and develop in an egg, which could lead to a vaccine that does not exactly match the circulating viruses. On the other hand, ” a plant is a plant “, which makes production easily scalable. “A plant behaves just like 100 000 other plants,” he says.
The trial will evaluate three different doses, either alone or with one of two adjuvants provided by GlaxoSmithKline and Dynavax. An adjuvant may increase the effectiveness of a vaccine to a better immunological response, thereby reducing the dose required, ” notes Mr. Clark.
He hopes to establish the effectiveness of additives and dosage levels by October, and then launch a second phase of testing, more targeted, involving about 1000 participants.
Mr. Clark said that the third phase would involve about 15 000 to 20 000 subjects, and could be a global study, according to the circumstances of the pandemic.
Not guaranteeing the supply of canadian
If the vaccine is successful, a further uncertainty is present, however, emphasises Mr. Clark.
Because the commercial plant of the company is on the other side of the border in Durham, North Carolina, he said that there was no guarantee of a supply of canadian.
“”Guarantee” is a strong word, advance to Dr. Clark. Strange things happen at the borders in the context of a pandemic. “
Such complications border were highlighted in April, when the prime minister Justin Trudeau complained of problems related to deliveries, incomplete or non-existent supplies essential to combat the COVID-19. At this time, the us president, Donald Trump had ordered us producers to give priority to the domestic market.
Mr. Clark suggested that similar barriers could have an impact on the distribution of vaccines, exerting immediate pressure on the Company to complete the construction of a plant to manufacture on a large scale in Quebec.
“We definitely need a facility in Canada,” said Dr. Clark.
“There is no guarantee as to the movement of materials from both sides of the border if we have an effective vaccine. We need to keep our focus on the completion of the facilities in canada to have a national capacity. I think it is this that is of concern to most countries. “
By the end of 2023, the Quebec plant should be able to produce up to a billion doses of vaccine against the COVID-19 per year.
By then, Medicago expects to be able to produce around 100 million doses by the end of 2021, assuming that its tests are conclusive.
Dr. Bruce Clark believes that the country should temper any nationalist agenda that could emerge with a viable vaccine, and recognizing that the fight against the COVID-19 is in the world.
To meet the demand, it will take several manufacturers, multiple channels of distribution and a lot of cooperation, he noted, may be through the world health Organization.
“There must be some capacity to share and distribute, whether through an entity such as the WHO, or something equivalent. “