Virginia Tech and University of Virginia researchers collaborate on new COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 1:06 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Researchers at the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech have teamed up to develop a new vaccine to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vaccine is in its early stages, but both men behind it are very optimistic, based on what they’ve seen so far from their trials on pigs.

“The results are promising, but there’s still a long way to go before we know for sure this vaccine can work in humans,” Dr. X.J. Meng said.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but Meng and UVA’s Dr. Steven Zeichner are excited to share their work since February 2020.

Meng said Zeichner sent him an email last year, asking if they could collaborate because he had a new vaccine platform, and Meng had the vaccine expertise to pull it off.

Their vaccine doesn’t require a sophisticated facility to produce it and it can be stored at room temperature. Current vaccines on the market target the entire spike protein, while theirs only takes a small piece of it, making it cheap, and replicable with existing technology.

“Basically you can just grow the bacteria in a large quantity and you can quickly kill the bacteria to make the vaccines.”

Affordability is important to both of them so they can distribute the vaccine to developing countries. Meng said the vaccine could be produced at a dollar a dose.

“The virus doesn’t need a visa to travel from one country to another,” Meng said. “Even if one country contained the virus, the virus could come back from another country and that virus could be a variant strain.”

Meng said global collaboration is key to keep the virus at bay.

“We still have a long way to go, but we are optimistic and hopefully this will work,” Meng said.

The next step is both researchers need to secure funding. If they can do that and additional testing is successful, they hope to partner with a major vaccine company that can quickly produce large quantities of it, making the vaccine available globally.

Meng believes it could still be a year or two before developing countries could even get a vaccine.

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