Israel to begin human trials of COVID-19 vaccine next month

Israel will begin human clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine developed by a research institute overseen by the Defence Ministry from November 1 after receiving regulatory approval, the ministry said on Sunday.

The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR began animal trials for its “BriLife” vaccine in March. The Health Ministry and an oversight committee have now given the green light to take it to the next stage.

Eighty volunteers aged between 18 and 55 will be monitored for three weeks to see if virus antibodies develop, the ministry said in a statement. Each volunteer will receive an injection and discharged after a few hours of observation. They will then be monitored over three weeks.

A second phase, expected to begin in December, will involve 960 people over the age of 18.

Should those succeed, a third, large-scale phase with 30,000 volunteers is scheduled for April/May. If successful, the vaccine may then be approved for mass use.

The vaccine, the ministry said, has already tested well on a number of animal models and the IIBR has produced more than 25,000 doses for the first and second phases of the clinical trials.

The vaccine elicited an effective immune response in both small animals (mice, hamsters and rabbits and large animals (pigs.

“Our final goal is 15 million rations for the residents of the State of Israel and for our close neighbours,” said IIBR Director Shmuel Shapira.

The vaccine developed by IIBR is based on an existing virus (VSV. Coronavirus spikes have been ‘engineered’ onto VSV, allowing the vaccine to attach to cells in the body.

Israel had claimed in August that it already has the vaccine against the coronavirus “in hand” but it has to go through regulatory processes that would begin with human trials following the autumn holidays.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have asked the institute in February to devote resources to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

There are no internationally approved vaccines yet, but several are in advanced trials, including from Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna.

Israel, with a population of 9 million, has begun easing a second nationwide coronavirus lockdown after a steady decline in the rate of daily infections.

The country saw 692 new cases on Saturday – down from a peak of more than 9,000 several weeks ago. It has reported 2,372 deaths from the pandemic.

(With agency inputs

Israel to begin human trials of COVID-19 vaccine next month