At least one coronavirus vaccine being developed in Argentina will begin clinical trials on humans next year, with others potentially in the pipeline, a government minister said this week.
"We’re thinking of next year for the first and second phases of tests on humans. This year we’ll be completing the pre-clinical phase," Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Roberto Salvarezza said Tuesday.
Speaking during an interview with Radio Nacional, Salvarezza recalled that "there are various Argentine vaccine projects, all in the pre-clinical phase,” though he highlighted one in particular as ahead of the pack.
“The one being developed at the Universidad de San Martín (Unsam) with researchers from CONICET (the National Science Council) and Cassará lab is highly advanced," he remarked.
Salvarezza said that the Argentina’s drug regulator ANMAT (Administración Nacional de Medicamentos, Alimentos y Tecnología Médica, the equivalent of the Food & Drug Administration in the United States) "has already indicated the necessary route towards those first and second phases next year, which is very good because it goes clearing away the unknowns and inconveniences which are known to present themselves” with human tests.
The minister said that the Argentine creations had taken different routes to inoculation.
"It is interesting because all the [vaccine] projects use different technologies – one project with Conicet and Instituto Leloir researchers works with adenovirus, another is based at La Plata University, another at the Bariloche branch of INTA with Bagó while there is another Leloir project working with the INTA and INTI technical institutes,” he said.
Salvarezza revealed that the state "has invested around US$60,000 per project," in order to be able to enhance their development and assist pre-clinical phases.
Regarding the most advanced project (named "Arvac Cecilia Grierson" and headed by the investigator Juliana Cassataro, Salvarezza revealed), the minister explained that "it is a vaccine with recombinant protein, using the proteins as antigen to envelop the virus (S and N)."
On that point he added: "It’s a very safe platform, which is used, for example, in the vaccine against hepatitis B."
Regarding the importance of creating a national vaccine, he recalled: "It’s a question of health sovereignty because the technology is national and because you don’t have to negotiate abroad.
"You have to think of all the groups working on their own vaccines, which, as we have said before, comes from the messenger RNA to the recombinant protein or adenovirus, thus giving Argentina the capacity to have vaccines for different types of infectious diseases," highlighted Salvarezza.
In that sense he maintained that "this is a capacity which comes to stay," citing as an example the case of the "Laboratorios Richmond plant, [which is] very modern, which can make millions of doses and coronavirus might perhaps become secondary but we’ll have to face other diseases which could arise."
The previous day. the president of the Agencia Nacional de Promoción de la Investigación, el Desarrollo Tecnológico y la Innovación (I+D+i), Fernando Peirano, had also highlighted that the project 'Arvac Cecilia Grierson' is "the one advancing fastest."
"The expectation is that very early next year Phase 1 or the work with volunteers can begin to test the safety and efficacy of that vaccine," Peirano had pointed out in dialogue with Radio AM 750.
'Arvac Cecilia Grierson' is the first project selected by the I+D+i agency within the framework of the Coronavirus Unit which it integrates together with the Science Ministry and Conicet.
Last June the I+D+i agency approved a grant of 60 million pesos to conclude the preclinical stage to test the safety and corresponding immune capacity ahead of the clinical stages which evaluate the safety and efficacy of the 'Arvac Cecilia Grierson' for humans.
"It’s conceived as a booster," explained Peirano, estimating that it could be used to broaden the vaccination calendar, "including a regular vaccine against coronavirus."
In that sense he highlighted the importance of that regular vaccine "being designed, produced and applied in Argentina and also in Latin America and other countries around the world."
The interdisciplinary research group obtained two vaccine prototypes which in animal studies demonstrated a capacity to induce very good levels of antibodies to neutralise the virus and of T cell immune response in line with the current requirements for vaccines against Covid-19.
"There Argentina has a potential where vaccine is health beyond any doubt but also development, it’s the capacity to present ourselves to the world and contribute with something very necessary these days," concluded Peirano.