Covid-19: Swiss nasal spray vaccine to enter clinical trials

As a nasal spray the vaccine would be easier to administer, transport and store. Keystone / Ennio Leanza

A Swiss-led research consortium has partnered with Basel-based biotech company RocketVax to launch clinical trials for two second-generation Covid-19 vaccine candidates. This includes a nasal spray vaccine.

This content was published on March 17, 2022 - 11:19

The research consortium, led by virologist Volker Thiel at the University of Bern, announced on Wednesday that it had signed a partnership with RocketVax to start clinical trials for new vaccine candidates. These are live-attenuated vaccines, which use a form of the virus that doesn’t make people ill but elicits an immune response. Such live vaccines have proven effective against other diseases such as measles.

The Swiss National Science Foundation, which provided funding for the development of the vaccines, said in a press releaseExternal link that the vaccines are intended to be available as a nasal spray, which simplifies administration. It should also be easier to transport and store because the vaccine remains stable at higher temperatures and can therefore be used in warmer climates.

The next step in development is to move to phase I clinical trials (out of typically three phases). If the clinical trials demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, the vaccine may be produced in Switzerland.

RocketVax was established in 2020 and is the product of a merger between start-up incubator Swiss Rockets and Gigabases, a biotech spin-off from the federal technology institute ETH Zurich.

The number of new coronavirus infections has risen in the past couple of days, reaching more than 36,000 on Wednesday. The weekly average infection rate is 20% higher than the previous week.

Testing for variants

On Wednesday Basel-based pharmaceutical giant Roche announced that its molecular tests can be used to detect and differentiate Omicron subvariants. This comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed growing concern about the spread of the BA.2 subvariant.

“It's critical to quickly and accurately identify variants to inform ongoing research – including the ongoing development of therapeutics and vaccines. This can potentially stop or slow down the advancement of the disease,” said Thomas Schinecker, CEO of Roche Diagnostics, in a press releaseExternal link.

Roche specified that the specific testing solutions detecting variants are available for research use only.

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