Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE) and Massachusetts General Hospital are working on an experimental vaccine called AAVCovid, a novel gene-based vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
The AAVCovid experimental vaccine programme, led by Dr Luk Vandenberghe, associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Centre at MEE, relies on a gene therapy technology currently used to cure blindness from Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA)*. The vaccine is currently in preclinical development and should start human clinical trials later this year, said A/Prof Vandenberghe.
The AAVCovid vaccine programme is a unique, gene-based vaccine strategy that uses adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector, a clinically established gene transfer technology leveraging the properties of a harmless viral carrier, he said. AAV is used to deliver genetic sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 spike antigen, so the body can develop an immune response to the coronavirus.
AAV technology has been used extensively in the field of gene therapy and substantial experience and capacity exists for manufacturing and clinical use of AAV-based medicines, said A/Prof Vandenberghe. “AAV is a superior technology for safe and efficient gene delivery and the unique technologies we are applying in AAVCOVID support the potential for a potent immunity to be induced to SARS-CoV-2 from a single injection.”