Johannesburg - The Walter Sisulu and the North West universities have announced “very promising first results” from the preclinical trials on a new Covid-19 vaccine.
The universities announced earlier this month that trials for a DNA vaccine candidate, developed by Germany-based Professor Markus Depfenhart, are well advanced and promising. Depfenhart holds appointments as a professor at both institutions.
“We express our special appreciation to Professor Depfenhart, who has had to lead this project from Hamburg, Germany, because of the extended Covid travel restrictions. He has a big impact on our two universities. He is a driving force in bringing together a new Pan-African, multi-national platform around vaccines and epidemic responses in Africa, by Africa, for Africa,” the executive dean of the faculty of Health Sciences at NWU, Professor Awie Kotzé, said.
The universities said that DNA vaccines were relatively inexpensive and straightforward to manufacture, can be adjusted quickly to address mutations and offer simple yet effective means of inducing broad-based immunity.
“Since they are stable at ambient temperature without a cold chain for storage and shipping, they are a desirable vaccination platform, almost ideal for all conditions on our continent,” the universities said.
The vice-chancellor and principal of WSU, Professor Rushiella Songca, said the universities were excited but their excitement was about more than a vaccine candidate.
“It’s about building capacity on the African continent, collaborating, and installing confidence in our scientists, that everything seems impossible until you achieve it. We’re learning by the day every step of the process,” Songca said.
Professor Dan Kgwadi, principal and vice-chancellor of the NWU, said the university was excited about this milestone and looked forward to working with more institutions to ensure efficient and effective responses to pandemics and other health challenges.
Songca said the two universities had also assembled a collaborative consortium comprising the most outstanding research institutes and scientists in Africa and Europe to tackle pandemic response in Africa.