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UM School of Medicine Researchers Demonstrate Strong Immune Response for New COVID-19 Vaccine in Pre-Clinical Tests

February 05, 2021 | Deborah Kotz

UMSOM Uniquely Positioned to Link Basic Science Research to Clinical Trials.

 Matthew B. Frieman, PhDResearchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have found promising results in pre-clinical studies for a new experimental vaccine against COVID-19 made by Novavax. The vaccine was found to generate a robust immune response in animals exposed to the vaccine with strong data indicating safety and efficacy, according to the study published recently in the journal Nature Communications. The results have been used to begin testing the vaccine in human trials in the U.S. with a Phase 3 trial that recently launched at the UMSOM’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health.

The vaccine is a stable protein that is manufactured from the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spike protein. As with traditional vaccines like the flu shot, the Novavax vaccine uses adjuvants to boost the immune response in those who receive it.

“We found this vaccine produces high antibody levels leading to significant protection from SARS-CoV-2 in mice. Together with the non-human primate data, this suggests that the vaccine will be highly protective in humans. Our previous work, with Novavax on a MERS coronavirus vaccine and now SARS-CoV-2, demonstrates that continued support of basic science is essential in the response to pandemics,” said study co-author Matthew Frieman, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UMSOM.

The vaccine trial is being conducted by researchers in UMSOM’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health (CVD) as part of their National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-funded Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit (VTEU), and the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN). It adds to the extensive COVID-19 vaccine research that has been underway on campus since early spring. The UMSOM site is in the process of recruiting up to 500 participants out of 30,000 total who will take part in the trial. The aim is to include diverse populations most impacted by COVID-19.  They will include people who have increased risk of exposure because of location or circumstance, such as occupation. Individuals 65 and older, African Americans and LatinX populations, as well as individuals at risk of severe COVID-19, will be represented.

The Novavax vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, is a stabilized, prefusion protein antigen derived from the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spike (S) protein and is formulated with Novavax’s proprietary adjuvant Matrix‑M™. NVX-CoV2373 contains purified protein antigen and can neither replicate nor can it cause COVID-19.

The vaccine has been in Phase 3 trials in the U.K., with more than 15,000 participants enrolled. Interim data in this event-driven trial are expected as soon as early first quarter of 2021.

E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBAOur coronavirus experts at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have been at the forefront of basic research efforts that have helped develop new treatments and vaccines against COVID-19,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “For this new vaccine made by Novavax, our researchers have worked on every aspect of its development from bench studies to Phase 3 clinical trials. It speaks to the broad expertise and collaborative efforts of our faculty. This latest research will lead us a step closer to providing another potentially lifesaving tool in the vaccine arsenal.”

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 45 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of more than $1.2 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has more than $563 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 students, trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and an economic impact more than $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu

Contact

Deborah Kotz
410-706-4255
dkotz@som.umaryland.edu

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