By Ashley Young-
The big hope of Oxford University delivering the long awaited vaccine to cure the coronavrus has been dashed after a world-leading scientist analysing the coronavirus trials confirmed the test on monkeys failed.
The Oxford trial vaccine in rhesus macaque monkeys failed from preventing the monkeys from getting coronavirus, although there may be some effectiveness in stopping the severity of the disease.
The findings were revealed late on Monday by the former head of Harvard University medical school, Dr William Haseltine, after he analysed the substantiating data underpinning the vaccine in the Oxford trial (an adenovirus vector-based vaccine that carries the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein), which was released late last week.
The disappointing outcome means a $150m project in conjunction with Astra Zeneca to manufacture an estimated 30 million doses of the Oxford vaccine has reached a dead end.
The news comes as the first people who took part in a U.S trial developed coronavirus antibody claim to have received a higher level of protection against the virus than those who have already had Covid-19. Participants who received Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine had positive early results, according to the biotech company which partnered with the National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine.
The U.S pharmaceutical company said that the trial indicated safety in the first phase which sampled just eight people.
But Dr Haseltine of Oxford University wrote: “All of the vaccinated monkeys treated with the Oxford vaccine became infected when challenged as judged by recovery of virus genomic RNA from nasal secretions.
“There was no difference in the amount of viral RNA detected from this site in the vaccinated monkeys as compared to the unvaccinated animals. Which is to say, all vaccinated animals were infected.”
He explained: “Typically, neutralising antibodies in effective vaccines can be diluted by more than a thousand-fold and retain activity. In these experiments the serum could be diluted only by four to 40-fold before neutralising activity was lost.”
He compared the Oxford vaccine unfavourably with the Sinovac vaccine trial, which he said showed complete protection of rhesus monkeys by their vaccine candidate, whole inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus particles.
He said it was “crystal clear” the Oxford vaccine did not provide sterilising immunity to the virus challenge, “the gold standard for any vaccine’’.
Dr Haseltine added: “It may provide partial protection. The question then becomes: ‘Will partial protection be enough to control the COVID-19 pandemic?’ That is an open question. For an answer we can look to other diseases for which only partially effective vaccines exist — HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The answers are not encouraging, except perhaps for the protection of childhood malaria.’’