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New Vaccine Could Offer Protection Against A Wide Range Of Coronaviruses

 A photo showing a microscopic view of the new Coronavirus.
Cal Tech scientists are working on a vaccine that could protect against SARS-related coronaviruses even before they are discovered.
(Photo by CDC
Getty Images)
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A team of local researchers is working on a vaccine that could protect against novel coronaviruses before they are discovered.

The shot won't include inactivated viruses or messenger RNA created in a lab that tells our cells to make one kind of protein, triggering an immune response.

Instead, Cal Tech scientists are using a mosaic nanoparticle with pieces of spiked proteins from eight coronaviruses to trigger the immune system, making cross-protective antibodies capable of fighting off multiple viruses.

Lead researcher Pamela Bjorkman said testing in monkeys and mice produced a broad immune response, even protecting against a coronavirus that was not in the eight included in the nanoparticle vaccine.

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"If another SARS-related Coronavirus spills over into humans, and we don't even know what that might be yet, it will work against that," she said. "It will also work against the new Omicron and the other variants of concern.”

The next step is to try out the vaccine on humans. That’ll happen at Oxford University, likely starting in 2024.

Bjorkman said experts won't be able to predict which viruses will jump from animals to humans to cause another epidemic, but this vaccine can help protect against future SARS-related coronaviruses without boosters.

"What we're trying to do is make an all-in-one vaccine protective against SARS-like betacoronaviruses," she said, "regardless of which animal viruses might evolve to allow human infection and spread."

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