The COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions of people with no clear signs of abatement owing to the high prevalence, long incubation period and lack of established treatments or vaccines. Vaccines are the most promising solution to mitigate new viral strains. The genome sequence and protein structure of the 2019-novel coronavirus (nCoV or SARS-CoV-2) were made available in record time, allowing the development of inactivated or attenuated viral vaccines along with subunit vaccines for prophylaxis and treatment. Nanotechnology benefits modern vaccine design since nanomaterials are ideal for antigen delivery, as adjuvants, and as mimics of viral structures. In fact, the first vaccine candidate launched into clinical trials is an mRNA vaccine delivered via lipid nanoparticles. To eradicate pandemics, present and future, a successful vaccine platform must enable rapid discovery, scalable manufacturing and global distribution. Here, we review current approaches to COVID-19 vaccine development and highlight the role of nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing.
The vaccine strategies
When designing a vaccine, principally, one needs to define the antigen, the adjuvant, the manufacturing system and the delivery strategy (Box 1). The rapid development of vaccines is possible because the genome and structural information of SARS-CoV-2 was made available in record time10,11,12,13,14. These data, along with expedited communication of bioinformatic predictions and epitope mapping15,16,17,18, has provided crucial knowledge enabling vaccine design beyond development of live-attenuated and inactivated vaccines19,20,21,22,23. Also, information available from prior development of SARS/MERS vaccine candidates aids in the development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates24,25. Nanotechnology platforms offer great utility in modern vaccine design and have helped catalyse novel candidate vaccines toward clinical testing at unprecedented speed. Along with inactivated vaccines, emerging nanotechnologies such as mRNA vaccines delivered by lipid nanoparticles and viral vector vaccines have already reached Phase II and III clinical trials (Fig. 1 and Table 1).
Advances in bio/nanotechnology and advanced nano/manufacturing coupled with open reporting and data sharing lay the foundation for rapid development of innovative vaccine technologies to make an impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. Within 40 days of initial structural and genomic reports of SARS-CoV-2, the first vaccine candidate entered into the clinical development pipeline and as of 1 June 2020, there are already 16 vaccine candidates in clinical trials, many in Phase II and even one in Phase III. While any vaccine is still months-to-years away from clinical reality, the parallel and rapid efforts from academic laboratories and industry provide hope for success. A plethora of nanotechnology platforms are being pivoted against SARS-CoV-2; while highly promising, many of these may be several years away from deployment and therefore may not have an impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Nevertheless, as devastating as COVID-19 is, it may serve as an impetus for the scientific community, funding bodies, and stakeholders to commit more focused efforts toward development of platform technologies that bolster the preparedness for future pandemics. Several nanomaterials afford platform technologies that are amenable to scalability, stability, portability, distribution and device incorporation for self-administration. Moreover, several platform technologies described herein may serve as plug-and-play technologies that can be tailored to seasonal or new strains of coronaviruses. Indeed, COVID-19 harbours the potential to become a seasonal disease; underscoring the need for continued investment in coronavirus vaccines. SARS and MERS vaccine candidates did not make it to market due to lack of financial incentive given the low infection numbers, and because the risk of a global pandemic from a newly emerged virus were largely ignored. Yet, because there is some conservation between the coronaviruses, continued research and product development is critical to tackle any new version of coronavirus that emerges in the future.
Reference & Source information: https://www.nature.com/
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