AUSTIN, Texas - A new vaccine called NDV-HXP-S, a name derived from "Newcastle Disease Virus HexaPro Spike," could revolutionize the fight against COVID-19.
The vaccine has been tested in animals. Now, human trials are underway in Vietnam and Thailand. A clinical study will take place in Brazil.
The vaccine uses the HexaPro spike protein, developed by scientists at the University of Texas at Austin.
"The second-generation spike was re-engineered here at UT Austin to be even more stable, and even easier to manufacture. We probably got 10 to 30 fold improvement in manufacturing," said Dr. Ilya Finkelstein, an associate professor of molecular biosciences at UT, who helped create HexaPro.
The vaccine can be developed in eggs, like annual flu vaccinations. Finkelstein says that makes it cheaper than COVID-19 vaccines, especially mRNA vaccines, currently on the market.
"There’s never been an RNA-based therapeutic before these vaccines. So, they had to build their factories, as they were developing the actual therapeutic, which is a very, very heavy lift," Finkelstein said. "For egg-based vaccine design, production capacity already exists. We can make billions of doses rapidly for global demand."
Finkelstein hopes the advancement will reduce challenges associated with distributing COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries, as they will now be able to use existing infrastructure to produce their own vaccines or at least buy them at a lower cost.
"It’s a moral imperative to have all of humanity have access to a cheap COVID-19 vaccine to save lives." he said, adding that it is also "a biological imperative" as countries that lag behind in vaccine distribution give the virus additional opportunities to mutate and create new variants.
"Until we provide a barrier against this constant spread and reinfection across the globe… there's going to be variants popping up here and there," Finkelstein said.
PATH, a nonprofit committed to medical equity, provided FOX 7 Austin with this statement:
"An advantage of the NDV-HXP-S vaccine is that it is made in eggs in much the same way as influenza vaccines in widespread use, meaning that affordable, large-scale manufacturing capacity already exists in many countries. A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine that leverages existing manufacturing infrastructure and capacity is a promising and practical strategy for bolstering the supply of affordable vaccines to address COVID-19 over the long term. For countries otherwise dependent on imported COVID-19 vaccines, locally produced options are an important strategy for enhancing the ability to protect their own populations and potentially supply vaccine to other countries as well."