UW Medicine announces promising coronavirus vaccine prospect

SEATTLE — The new UW Vaccine candidate was created using replicating RNA. Like other vaccines, it triggers the body's immune system to create defenses to COVID-19. But it's the fact that the RNA vaccine reproduces itself inside the body that makes it special.

“What this vaccine does is once it gets in the cell, everything is the same, but then it starts replicating itself, producing more copies of itself. That will produce more vaccine protein and, potentially, make it more immunogenic,” said UW Microbiology professor Deborah Fuller. She is in charge of the laboratory that developed the vaccine.

She says tests and mice and monkeys show that it produces a strong, potentially long -lasting immune response. “We were able to induce very strong immune responses after a single dose, which would be consistent with a vaccine that’s producing much more vaccine antigen.”

Because billions of doses will be needed, a vaccine needs to be easy to make and non-perishable.

Researcher Jesse Erasmus developed a two-part formulation that can go without refrigeration for a week.

Seattle bio-tech firm HDT created the microscopic drops of oil used to transport the RNA vaccine inside human cells.

“So, you can scale up manufacturing of the formulation and scale up manufacturing of the RNA and stockpile each of these things independently. And then you do a simple one-to-one bedside mix prior to vaccination,” Erasmus said.

They're on track to launch the first stage of human trials later this summer. This could be the very first RNA vaccine to go into widespread human use.

“Having worked in nucleic acid vaccines all my life, this is actually what I say is the revolution,” Fuller said.

A study of the findings has been published in Science Translational Medicine. Click here to read more.