COVID-19 shot that could protect against multiple variants being tested

A U.S. pharmaceutical company is beginning a trial to test a drug that will boost the immune response of vaccines against different variants of the COVID-19 virus.

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Gritstone Bio, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Emeryville, California, in partnership with the University of Manchester will conduct the study that will include 20 volunteers over age 60.

The trial will take place at the National Institute for Health Research Manchester Clinical Research Facility in Manchester, England.

Results are expected by early next year, a press release from Manchester University said.

The drug, GRT-R910, is a self-amplifying mRNA vaccine – or SAM for short.

Like regular vaccines, self-amplifying vaccines deliver antigens that produce an immune response from the body. What is different about SAM vaccines is that they offer antigens, or foreign bodies, from both the spike protein of the coronavirus and the non-spike protein of the virus.

According to researchers, SAM vaccines may offer the opportunity of lowering the amount in current vaccine doses or eliminating the need of repeat doses while still providing long lasting immune responses for the COVID-19 virus and its variants.

The SAM vaccines work by spurring in action certain immune cells and antibodies that can bind to the virus and neutralize it, according to researchers.

“Our SAM COVID-19 vaccine is designed to drive robust CD8+ T cell responses, in addition to strong neutralizing antibody responses, offering the promise of longer lasting immunity,” said Dr. Andrew Allen, president and chief executive officer of Gritstone.

According to Allen, if the SAM vaccine proves to be effective, it could eliminate the need for a booster shot of a mRNA vaccine.

“Our hypothesis is that a different vaccine such as GRT-R910 might complement the primary immune response from pre-existing vaccination … in such a way that it would provide more benefit than an additional dose of the same vaccine,” he said.

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for those fully vaccinated Americans aged 65 and older, and anyone else at risk of severe illness.

Both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will be submitting information to the FDA for approval of a booster dose of their vaccines.