UMCG is looking for volunteers to test American corona vaccine (update)

The vaccine has already been tested on animals, the UMCG is now going to investigate how safe the drug is for humans.

The company has previously worked with UMCG

According to project leader Go van Dam, the Americans ended up at a Groningen hospital for the vaccine research thanks to a previous collaboration with the company.

‘That’s why they approached us last year to ask if we wanted to do this project.’ The reputation of the Netherlands in the field of pharmaceutical production also plays a role, says Van Dam. ‘It’s just really good. Also in Groningen. Moreover, we have a large population of potential participants in the North. ‘

From surgeon to drug developer
Project leader Go van Dam worked as a surgeon at the UMCG, but in recent years has focused on developing innovative medicines. He does this with his own company Tracer, with offices in City (next to the UMCG) and New York. The UMCG hired him for the vaccination study.

What’s in the US vaccine?

Study participants will be administered the vaccine ‘AKS-452’ developed by Akston. This consists of part of the coronavirus, the spike protein, and part of a protein from a human antibody. The vaccine is contained in a liquid that strengthens the immune response. With this technique, a natural reaction against the virus infection is imitated and the own immune system is activated.

Produce large quantities quickly

“The advantage of this type of vaccine is that it does not contain any genetic material from the virus and it is therefore impossible for the virus to multiply in the body,” writes the UMCG. According to the hospital, the American vaccine has already been extensively tested in animal experiments. ‘It has proven to be effective and safe in this.’

Another big advantage of this vaccine, according to Van Dam, is that it can quickly be produced in large quantities. When approved, the company could produce 1 billion doses of it within three to four months. This makes it more easily available to people worldwide ‘

Who can apply?

Not everyone can register as test taker for the vaccine. The UMCG is looking for 176 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 65. They must not have been infected with the corona virus before. People who have already been vaccinated cannot participate either.

According to Van Dam, the fact that people over 65 are not eligible is a conscious choice: ‘We first wanted to go to age 85, but those are more vulnerable patients. If this is safe, we can raise the age limit in phase two. ‘

One shot is probably enough

Because the UMCG research consists of two steps. First, it is examined whether the vaccine provides sufficient immunity with just one shot. ‘That is probably the case,’ says Van Dam. But to assess this, this is tested on sixty volunteers, half of whom receive one and the other half two injections.

In the second phase, studies then determine the correct dosage. This is done with the help of 116 test subjects. After participating in the study, participants retain the right to be vaccinated with another corona vaccine.

Unrest due to AstraZeneca vaccine

In recent weeks, there has been concern about AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has been suspended following reports of serious side effects. Van Dam understands that this may make people anxious to participate in the study. Still, vaccine development doesn’t happen overnight, he says.

“Vaccines are under a magnifying glass. We only vaccinate healthy people, but you don’t know whether there are side effects until you’ve tested it. ‘ He contradicts that vaccines are coming onto the market too quickly. ‘The authorities and scientists are investing a lot of money in developing them quickly. However, this never happens outside of the safety requirements. That also applies to our vaccine. ‘

What do we know about the American vaccine manufacturer?
The American company Akston Biosciences is based in Beverly, Massachusetts and specializes in the design of novel fusion proteins to develop and manufacture new biological therapies for type 1 diabetes prevention, long-acting insulin therapy and vaccines. The AKS-452 vaccine is based on this technique.
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