Israeli vaccine evolves to mimic Omicron

Israel Institute of Biological Research (IIBR), Nes Ziona  credit: Eyal Izhar

The Israel Institute of Biological Research vaccine, being developed by NRx Pharmaceuticals, has yet to be proved effective in the real world.

NRx Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: NRXP), which is developing the BriLife coronavirus vaccine of the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), under license from the Ministry of Defense, reports that it has received scientific evidence from IIBR that the vaccine may produce effective levels of neutralizing antibody against the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The IIBR report documents that 10 of 13 tested sera demonstrated clinically detectable levels of Omicron-neutralizing antibody. It is still not clear from the report how effective the vaccine will be in preventing infection and severe sickness in the real world, but the production of neutralizing antibody is a first step in that direction.

IIBR's researchers say that the decline in its vaccine's ability to neutralize the Omicron variant was smaller than that of Pfizer's mRNA-based vaccine. This still does not indicate how the IIBR vaccine will perform in comparison with the Pfizer vaccine, as there are many and various factors that affect the chances of preventing infection and sickness. The IIBR vaccine has yet to demonstrate clinical effectiveness in preventing sickness in the real world.

The researchers report an interesting phenomenon: "Many of the mutations that cause the Omicron variant spike protein to differ from the spike protein of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 have been identified in the spike protein of the BriLife vaccine. This natural evolution of the BriLife vaccine suggests that the vaccine may continue to evolve to address future Variants of Concern (VOCs). Unlike the current mRNA vaccines and attenuated virus vaccines, the BriLife vaccine is a live, viral vector vaccine in which the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been added to a benign virus, called VSV."

There is no reason that there should be evolutionary pressure on the vaccine to imitate the Omicron variant particularly or further variants that are liable to arise, but the company claims that is in fact what happened.

The IIBR report concludes that, "Taken together, our data indicates that BriLife-induced antibodies maintain neutralizing potential against all tested variants, and most importantly against delta, and the recently emerged omicron VOCs. We suggest that spontaneously-acquired mutations that occurred during BriLife development and correspond to naturally-occurring mutations of SARSCoV-2 variants, may increase the potential of BriLife to maintain effectiveness against current SARS-CoV-2 variants, and potentially against future VOCs."

NRx chairperson Jonathan Javitt said, "We are enormously encouraged by the recent findings of the IIBR. At a time when the majority of western populations have been vaccinated with mRNA vaccines, there is a clear need for a booster vaccine that can broaden immunity against current and future variants of concern. The BriLife vaccine has now demonstrated potential to continue to evolve in a manner that has the potential to protect against variants that are not yet known, and is planned to be tested as a booster in a phase 2 trial that will include Israel and other partner countries,"

NRx Pharmaceuticals is traded on Nasdaq at a market cap of $174 million, after falling 95% from the peak it recorded in January last year when it merged with a SPAC.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 27, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Israel Institute of Biological Research (IIBR), Nes Ziona  credit: Eyal Izhar
Israel Institute of Biological Research (IIBR), Nes Ziona credit: Eyal Izhar
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