Universal Covid vaccine could be developed within a year

It comes after AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said their vaccine had been found to provide only limited protection against mild and moderate disease caused by the South African variant of Covid-19.

A universal vaccine with the potential to be effective against all Covid-19 variants could be developed within a year, according to researchers.

The so-called second generation jab, developed by scientists at the University of Nottingham, targets the core of the virus as well as the surface spike protein.

If successful, the DNA vaccine could help protect against not only Covid-19 but also against any new strains of coronavirus that arise in the future.

The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines only target the spike protein, which enables the virus to gain entry into a cell, and so may lose effectiveness when it mutates.

However, researchers say the nucleocapsid (N) protein, which makes up the bulk of the virus particle, is “highly conserved” – meaning much less likely to mutate.

The Nottingham vaccine would also be relatively simple to manufacture and would not need to be stored in ultra-low temperatures, according to Scancell.

“We don’t necessarily claim it will be a pan-coronavirus vaccine, but it has got the potential to be so simply because of where it is targeted,” Dr Gillies O’Bryan-Tear, the chief medical officer of the immunology company Scancell which collaborates with the University of Nottingham, told the Daily Telegraph.

Dr O’Bryan-Tear said that the vaccine candidate needed a big pharmaceutical partner and hundreds of millions of pounds to put it through the clinical trials process.

If this funding is in place then it could be developed within a year.

“There is no reason why, if we get a partner, we shouldn’t be able to do it as quickly as the others have done it,” Dr O’Bryan-Tear told the Telegraph.

“I think the pandemic will be around for two or three more years, because of supply, because of not being able to vaccinate developing countries. During that time, the virus will mutate, so there are plenty of opportunities for new entrants to try their hand.”

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