Oxford's Progress into COVID-19 Immunity

Theme: Health Issues and Disease


Carlotta Ceccarelli

The promising headlines of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, stopping by Oxford’s vaccine development facilities ignited hope globally. Especially to those still stuck in lockdown today, hearing the advancements made towards COVID-19 immunisation is refreshing. Work done by researchers is being internationally recognised by such a highly public figure! By gaining an insight into individuals taking part in the clinical trial for an experimental vaccine, many have been allowed to begin visualizing an end to this seemingly incessant global pandemic [1].


The Jenner Institute is a research organisation named after Edward Jenner (the pioneer of the smallpox vaccine), formed in partnership with the University of Oxford which specialises in the development of vaccines. Despite the competition in rapidly producing an administrable source of immunisation, Oxford is much further ahead in the race than establishments based in countries like China, the first to contract the target disease. Due to the worldwide support they have received, Oxford is in a financially favourable position. This is expected from their association with the company AstraZeneca, respected for their major role in pharmaceutics around Britain. They are the reason Oxford is in the late stages of testing right now, having a growing production of vaccines available to be supplied for emergencies in October this year. Although the proposition may not be fully approved by the end of this year, protection could be granted to vulnerable high-risk categories such as the elderly and others who are immunocompromised [2].


Sarah Gilbert, a vaccinologist in the Jenner Institute, is responsible for immunisation against emerging viral pathogens and took a lead role in the breakthrough for COVID-19 research [3]. The Oxford team designed a feasible vaccine by utilizing a vector from a Chimpanzee affecting virus, called Adenovirus. Adenoviral vectors are used in vaccine development industries, which provide tangible and easily modified antigens to fight against a large array of infectious diseases; its distinctive features were able to provide responses for even cancer cells [4]. The COVID-19 variety of coronavirus has an outer coat of protein spikes like all virus cells do, once they attach to our respiratory cells, that is where one has been infected with the disease. The Adenovirus has the exact genetic code of the COVID-19 protein coat, triggering the same immune response without actually contracting the deadly disease [5].


Normally, a vaccine would take 10-15 years for it to be adequately tested, manufactured and distributed amongst populations- but there isn’t that kind of time when trying to control a global pandemic. The production of the COVID-19 vaccination in Oxford would take much less time, making it an exception in the British system in terms of drug manufacturing. This vaccine has been in development for decades, most of the work has been put in place due to the efforts to stop other coronaviruses from the past [6]. Therefore what was left to do was adjust formulae and test, which has been done with 6 Rhesus Macaque monkeys and is currently being done with humans. Results thus far have been very encouraging, the monkeys have not shown the tell-tale developmental signs of COVID-19 infections such as the progression into Pneumonia.


Although this information has not been officially published, there is hope for the overstretched healthcare workers, families torn apart and shut down businesses. Regardless of vaccine confirmations, we should all be practising precautionary measures in our day to day lives. Regularly wearing maks and refraining from crowded areas (in spite of various movement restrictions around the world) should become our new normal. In the meantime ensure you are there for your loved ones, this could be by protecting yourself too!

For more information on what was just mentioned, visit this link attached: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public


Glossary:

  • Clinical Trial: Experiments or observations done in clinical research.

  • Immunocompromised: Having an impaired immune system.

  • Vaccinologist: The science or methodology of vaccine development.

  • Viral Pathogens: A Virus that can produce disease.

  • Vector: An organism, typically a biting insect or tick, that transmits a disease or parasite from one animal or plant to another.

  • Antigens: A toxin or other foreign substance which induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies.

  • Pneumonia: A form of an acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs.


References:

  1. The Economic Times. 2020. Prince William Pays A Visit To Oxford's Coronavirus Vaccine Development Facilities Read More At Https://Economictimes.Indiatimes.Com/Magazines/Panache/Prince-William-Pays-A-Visit-To-Oxfords-Coronavirus-Vaccine-Development-Facilities/Articleshow/76617264.Cms?Utm_Source=Contentofinterest&Utm_Medium=Text&Utm_Campaign=Cppst. [online] Available at <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/prince-william-pays-a-visit-to-oxfords-coronavirus-vaccine-development-facilities/articleshow/76617264.cms> [Accessed 9 July 2020].

  2. The Economist. 2020. Coronavirus Vaccine: Oxford Edges Ahead In Race And Scientists Could Know In August If Trials Show Their Covid-19 Jab Is Effective. [online] Available at: <https://inews.co.uk/news/science/coronavirus-vaccine-uk-latest-oxford-race-scientists-august-covid-19-trials-497704> [Accessed 9 July 2020].

  3. Nuffield Department of Medicine. n.d. Sarah Gilbert. [online] Available at: <https://www.ndm.ox.ac.uk/principal-investigators/researcher/sarah-gilbert> [Accessed 9 July 2020].

  4. Guo, J., Mondal, M. and Zhou, D., 2017. Development Of Novel Vaccine Vectors: Chimpanzee Adenoviral Vectors. [online] Taylor & Francis Online. Available at: <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21645515.2017.1419108> [Accessed 10 July 2020].

  5. Barrett, A., 2020. Oxford Coronavirus Vaccine ‘Significantly Reduces Viral Load’ In Monkeys. [online] Science Focus. Available at: <https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/oxford-coronavirus-vaccine-significantly-reduces-viral-load-in-monkeys/> [Accessed 10 July 2020].

  6. YouTube. 2020. Oxford University Scientists Say Coronavirus Vaccine Could Be Ready By Year’S End | NBC Nightly News. [online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM9ajv7m3f8&frags=pl%2Cwn> [Accessed 10 July 2020].

  7. Schraer, R., 2020. Coronavirus Vaccine: Macaque Monkey Trial Offers Hope. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/news/health-52674739> [Accessed 10 July 2020].

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