South Africa: 'Sniper Attack' - Inside the Western Cape Trial of a Potentially Variant-Proof Vaccine


An experimental Covid-19 vaccine currently in Phase I trials run by the University of Cape Town has a unique design that might offer better protection against current and future variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Here we provide an update on the trial and unpack the science behind this vaccine candidate.

In February, the University of Cape Town (UCT) announced that a group of its researchers was expected to start a Phase I clinical trial of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine produced by US company ImmunityBio. The experimental vaccine differs from current Covid-19 vaccines because it is designed to be more robust against the emergence of new variants.

Things have progressed significantly in the more than three months since then.

The second chair in the Department of Medicine at UCT and a co-investigator on the trial, Professor Graeme Meintjes, says the Phase I trial, which started in March at the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa's Khayelitsha clinical research site, is ongoing. Vaccines are usually only approved after findings from Phase III trials have been published.

He says the first two cohorts of 10 participants each have been enrolled and both received two subcutaneous injections of the vaccine, three weeks...

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