EXCLUSIVE: Here is the first Covid-19 vaccine developed in Africa
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A group of South African scientists have designed and developed the first Covid-19 vaccine of African origin, called Shantivax.
Port Elizabeth-based immunotherapy company, Genlab, together with Danish biotechnology company, Immunitrack, have created a “next generation vaccine” that will elicit both an antibody and T-cell response.
“It will completely change the way the world perceives Africa in terms of innovation. We have a vaccine by Africa, for Africa and the developing world,” said CEO of Genlab, Kamsellin Chetty.
“Next generation vaccines” are vaccines that have adapted and evolved from current vaccines to be safer and more effective.
“It’s the first time that the concept and design for a Covid-19 vaccine has come from South Africa,” said Chetty.
The Shantivax prototype is currently undergoing pre-clinical testing.
The vaccine uses a live, but weakened strain of bacterium that is known to be safe and will continuously stimulate the immune system to provide long-term protection against Covid-19.
“It has been designed to elicit a highly specialised respiratory immune response referred to as type I and type III interferon responses. The bacterium platform will transport a vector that will produce a small protein (peptides) called epitopes that are used to target the Covid-19.”
Shantivax can be administered through the skin into the bloodstream where it should elicit an antibody response and will use nanotechnology to travel from the bloodstream to the site of infection within the lung.
The vaccine can reside in the lung for a number of years while it continuously provides stimuli for the immune system to identify and neutralise Covid-19 before it replicates intensively.
Once the Shantivax vaccine has passed clinical trials, Chetty says they are hoping to outsource production to the Serum Institute of India (SII). “The company has the capacity to produce a bacterial vaccine of this nature,” he said.
According to Immunitrack CEO, Stephan Thorgrimsen: “This project presents a powerful approach to address the challenge in generating a lasting immune response against the emerging Covid-19 variants. Our in vitro HLA specific epitope mapping platform, NeoScreen, will enable Shantivax to address the urgent need for an effective, affordable and producible vaccine for the African continent”.