At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, hope was placed in two Israeli vaccine projects, one at the Institute for Biological Research in Ness Ziona, and the other at the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute in Kiryat Shemona. The Biological Research Institute's vaccine quickly entered trials, but there were delays, and it is now not clear how its development program will be completed and what market awaits it, when there are already five proven vaccines on the market and dozens more on the way. We hadn’t heard anything about the MIGAL product, the commercial rights on which belong to its subsidiary MigVax, for a long time, and it was not clear whether it had been decided to continue with its development, given the competition.
It turns out, however, that although the coronavirus vaccine market has become very competitive, the company has not abandoned the effort to develop the vaccine. In order to differentiate itself on the market, it plans the development of a vaccine that is administered orally, and not by injection, as a booster for those who have already been vaccinated.
At the end of last week, the company reported that the orally administered product had achieved good results on animals.
The product was tested on animals that had already been vaccinated twice against Covid-19 with one of the existing vaccines. After that, the animals were divided into three groups. One received a further dose of vaccine; one received a dummy vaccine; and the third received the MigVax vaccine orally. The oral vaccine raised the number of antibodies in the animals' by a factor similar to that achieved by the injected vaccine, and by more than the placebo.
The MIGAL coronavirus vaccine was originally developed as a vaccine against coronaviruses in fowl. When the pandemic broke out, it was converted for use on human beings. The company is currently raising money to start human clinical trials. Its first funding round was led by OurCrowd.
Antibody levels tend to rise after vaccination, to reach a peak, and then to decline gradually. Booster doses are designed to keep antibody levels high. It is still not known whether the antibodies in the vaccines against Covid-19, for example the Pfizer vaccine that has been given to most people in Israel, fade to a level that is ineffective after a period, and, if so, what that period might be. Governments are trying to be ready with back-up plans in case the effectiveness of vaccinations declines.
MigVax reported that an oral booster dose could save the need for a professional to administer it, enabling large numbers of people to be given it rapidly. The vaccine can be adapted to new coronavirus variants, if it turns out that two doses of the existing vaccine do not provide protection against some variant. The company said that its vaccine was likely to be effective for long periods, and that it was also effective in saliva, which means that it could prevent infection. It needs to be chilled, but it does not have to be deep frozen. It contains the "spike" material of the coronavirus, but not genetic material or other viruses, and there is currently no other similar vaccine, except in development. Some believe that this kind of vaccine could carry less risk, but for the time being there is no evidence for that claim.
It is still not clear what the effect of swallowing the vaccine will be. An orally administered vaccine spreads in the body through systems that an injected vaccine does not pass through, and so its side effects and its distribution in the body could be different from those resulting from an injected vaccine.
Another Israeli company, Oramed Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ORMP), is also developing an oral Covid-19 vaccine, and it has other competitors around the world developing products based on various vaccination methods.
Prof. Itamar Shalit, an expert on infectious diseases who is advising MigVax, said, "The results of this trial raise our confidence that an orally administered vaccine, MigVax 101, will make a positive contribution to a world dealing the new post-pandemic reality. Fifteen months into the pandemic, we are now seeing that controlling the coronavirus is a challenge. An oral booster vaccine such as our MigVax 101 will help health organizations around the world to transition from an emergency situation to routine, thanks to the ability to reduce the cost and extend the reach of vaccinations in many countries."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 14, 2021
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