It is called LeCoVax2 and is a new type of vaccine against Covid-19, developed by the State University of Milan in collaboration with VisMederi Research. The first preclinical experimental study, carried out on a mouse model, proved its effectiveness in inducing antibodies capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The encouraging result comes from a research work coordinated by Claudio Bandi, Sara Epis and Gian Vincenzo Zuccotti of the Romeo and Enrica Invernizzi Pediatric Research Center of the University of Milan, in collaboration with Emanuele Montomoli, scientific director of VisMederi Research srl (and lecturer at the University of Siena), which has already translated into two patents filed in February of this year. LeCoVax2 has innovative characteristics, which differentiate it from other vaccines currently in use for the control of COVID 19, both for the mechanism of action and for the aspects related to conservation and distribution, which we know to be fundamental for the management of the future phases of pandemic. The vaccines currently used for the control of COVID-19 in Europe are essentially based on two types of platforms: RNA administered inside small lipid particles or modified viruses, unable to replicate and cause infection, containing gene fragments of the SARS virus- CoV-2. Both platforms foresee that the production of the virus proteins (the so-called antigens, which trigger the immune response) takes place inside the cells of the vaccinated subjects. The vaccine platform used for the production of LeCoVax2 is completely different because it is based on a modified single-cell microorganism, capable of both producing and transporting the viral proteins that act as antigens, and which can therefore stimulate the production of antibodies in the vaccinated subject. The microorganism that comes to our aid, providing us with a sort of “protein micro-factory”, is Leishmania tarentolae, a non-pathogenic Leishmania for humans (and which has nothing to do with the one that causes leishmaniasis in dogs) can be administered in an inactivated form. “Leishmania tarentolae represents a sort of micro-factory, usable for the production of proteins very similar to those produced in the cells of a mammal, for example by a virus during infection or by an RNA vaccine”, explains Sara Epis of the Department of Biosciences of the State University, “Once inoculated into a mammal, the viral proteins produced in Leishmania have the ability to act like the proteins produced by the virus itself during natural infection. So as viral antigens able to stimulate the production of antibodies ”, he adds.
“Leishmania has another peculiar characteristic: a marked tendency to penetrate inside the cells that intervene in the early stages of the immune response, the dendritic cells”, continues Claudio Bandi of the Biosciences Department of the University. “Therefore, the use of Leishmania as a system for the production and transport of antigens allows these molecules to be conveyed directly to the cells that play a central role in inducing the immune response. These are the characteristics that prompted us to create LeCoVax2 ”, he adds. “On paper, LeCoVax2 was promising from the early stages of development – explains Emanuele Montomoli of VisMederi Research – but only in the last few weeks have we obtained the experimental results that have proven its effectiveness as an inducer of a specific antibody response. The study was carried out on a mouse model and allowed to detect the production of antibodies capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus “. Gianvincenzo Zuccotti, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and belonging to the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences L. Sacco of the State University of Milan, underlines: “The peculiarities of LeCoVax2 make it very promising for application in developing countries. The technology necessary for its production is relatively simple; moreover, being administered in an inactivated form, it can be developed into rehydratable lyophilized preparations, therefore easy to store and distribute. We also believe that LeCoVax2 can be developed for mucosal (e.g. oral) administration, which would facilitate its use, which is important if COVID vaccination were to be repeated over the years. In the coming weeks we will proceed with the preclinical investigations on LeCoVax2, especially for the definition of the most suitable formulation for use in clinical studies “. (AGI)
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