DZIF researchers at the LMU Munich have successfully tested their candidate vaccine against MERS coronavirus in a preclinical trial. Plans for a clinical trial, in which the virus will be tested in humans for the first time, are now underway. The scientists report their latest findings in the Journal of Virology.
Up to now, no preventive vaccine against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (short: MERS-CoV) has existed. Over 150 people in South Korea have recently been infected with this virus. Together with DZIF scientists, a research team led by Professor Gerd Sutter, Institute for Infectious Disease Medicine and Zoonoses at the LMU, had already developed a potential candidate vaccine two years ago. The candidate vaccine MVA-MERS-S was developed by Sutter’s team in collaboration with researchers from the Philipps-Universität Marburg and the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, based on the use of modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA).
“For the first time, we have now been able to demonstrate the efficacy of the MVA-MERS-S candidate vaccine against MERS-CoV infections,” says first author Dr Asisa Volz from the Department of Virology in Munich. In the currently published trial, genetically modified mice that had been made susceptible to coronavirus infections were vaccinated with MVA-MERS-S. “This trial demonstrates how safe and effective our vaccine candidate is. There is no risk of the resulting immune response further exacerbating a coronavirus infection,” says Gerd Sutter.
With this, the candidate vaccine MVA-MERS-S now fulfils important criteria for conducting clinical trials in humans for the first time. The project “GMP manufacture and Phase I clinical investigation of MVA-MERS-S, an experimental prophylactic vaccine against the Middle East Respiratory Virus Syndrome” will be conducted at the DZIF under the supervision of Gerd Sutter; financial means of almost 1.5 million euros have already been confirmed.