UPDATE March 4, 2020:
We’re working as fast as we can. Currently, the EpiVax Vaccine Team (Lenny Moise, Annie De Groot, Christine Boyle, and Lauren Meyers) are designing vaccines for four different efforts – Peptide-based vaccines (Press release HERE); A Spike-based Recombinant Protein vaccine with the University of Georgia (Press release HERE), and we are also looking to partner in RNA and DNA.
Our CEO, Dr. Anne De Groot, has also been asked her professional opinion in several news outlets, including WBUR Public Radio and Providence Business News. Dr. Lenny Moise has also spoken with local Convergence RI about EpiVax’s approach to develop a vaccine.
Follow all of EpiVax’s coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak HERE.
February 6, 2020
Unless you have been in a media blackout these past two weeks, you are well aware of the latest public health threat: 2019-nCoV. This new strain of coronavirus is currently linked to nearly thirty thousand infections and rising fatalities in China, and additional cases have been brought to other areas of the world. by air travelers.
Here’s our perspective:
Is it worse than SARS? That’s hard to say. Younger people may be more resilient, but a reported 25-30% of cases require intensive care. In truth, we don’t know because we don’t have the denominators (number of infected, number recovering), we only have the available daily updates on the situation that are available here.
Isn’t it just like the common cold? That would be nice, but, no. Our analysis of the conservation of T cell epitopes found in currently circulating strains of influenza with 2019 n-COV shows poor conservation with circulating “Common cold” (corona) viruses (at left) and against other coronaviruses (SARS, MERS, etc) at right. Basically, there is no T cell epitope cross-conservation (or very limited conservation) with other viruses according to EpiCC, our tool for evaluating outbreak strains. That’s why this virus is going to be far worse than the common cold or the flu. (For medical updates see here).
Can you make a vaccine for it? Yes we can. We’ve been building the tools to design “Vaccines on Demand“ for 20 years. And, because nCOV is an RNA virus, it has the opportunity to ‘go stealth‘ due to the mutability of its genome, making designing a vaccine for it a bit more difficult. But we are working swiftly, under the direction of EpiVax Vaccine Director, Dr. Lenny Moise, to develop a computational plan of attack. Important to note – it has human-like sequences that may abrogate immune response. Like HIV. Like HCV. Like influenza. See below a JanusMatrix analysis of the 2019-nCOV spike protein and read more about human-like sequences here. And stay tuned. We’ll post updates as they become available.