As the developing world faces disparities in vaccine distribution and availability, the development of Shantivax — Africa’s first Covid-19 vaccine —could be a game-changer.
This according to the CEO of Genlab, Kamsellin Chetty.
The Gqeberha-based immunotherapy company, has joined forces with Danish biotechnology company, Immunitrack, to design and develop the vaccine.
Chetty says Shanti is the ancient Sanskrit word for peace and that he is very happy with the way the vaccine prototype has been designed.
The “next generation” vaccine has evolved from current vaccines to be safer and more effective. It will elicit both antibodies and T-cells.
Clinical trials for the vaccine will take place within the next ten months, he said, and will be split between Johannesburg and Durban.
“We will not compromise ethics and the safety of human beings for profit or unreasonable timelines that sacrifice good science. We are self-funded, we do not have to compromise our principles and ethics for shareholders, government, academia or any such organisation,” he said.
The vaccine can be injected in the skin where it should elicit an antibody response and will use nanotechnology to travel from the bloodstream to the site of infection within the lung.
“Shantivax is a nano engineered live, attenuated, recombinant bacteria that has been designed to elicit a highly specialised respiratory immune response referred to as type I and type III interferon responses,” said Chetty.
According to Chetty here is what sets the Shantivax apart from other vaccines:
- Other vaccines have “targeted” the S protein (the actual target is called the epitope). Shantivax will target all 4 structural proteins that are “visible” to the immune system. This includes the S, E, M and N proteins.
- The core of the vaccine (the vector) and the nanotechnology has been designed to stimulate both the primary immune cell (like T-cells), as well as antibodies. These reasons are why Shantivax is considered to be “next generation”.
“We have learned from the mistakes of others and we have a highly improved design,” he said.
The T-cell response is vital to how the vaccine works because these cells can help people develop long-term Covid-19 immunity after infection. The T-cells have the ability to recognize the virus and provide prolonged immunity to Covid-19, even longer than antibodies.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) said that while it has not received any communication or applications for the vaccine, it could be beneficial for the country to develop its own vaccine.
Spokesperson Yuven Gounden said: “Sahpra would consider applications which meet the acceptance requirements for quality, safety and efficacy. The decisions taken are science-based and not on the origin of the scientists”.
“Vaccine development is generally cost and research intensive and would require the resources and support in this regard. Further to scale up for production would require vaccine manufacturing facilities which meet the requirements and the demand,” he said