A US-based Kenyan scientist is set to direct new research aimed at developing a vaccine candidate for Covid-19 prevention.
This follows the signing of pre-clinical research and option agreement between Kansas State University and Tonix Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company.
Waithaka Mwangi, a professor of diagnostic pathobiology in the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine, will direct the study, the university said on Monday.
The research is based on a new vaccine platform that Mwangi’s team developed for the bovine parainfluenza 3 virus (BPI3V).
"A weakened BPI3V has previously been shown to be an effective vaccine vehicle in humans. More importantly, following extensive testing, BPI3V was shown to be safe and stable in infants and children," Mwangi said.
"The vector is well suited for mucosal immunization using a nasal atomizer, but it can also be injected. Therefore, BPI3V is suitable for the development of COVID-19 vaccine candidates."
The research will be carried out at the K-State’s Biosecurity Research Institute in Pat Roberts Hall, a biosafety level-3 facility.
Mwangi and his research team concentrated on the most critical protein of coronaviruses, which they say is the spike protein.
When a person is exposed, this protein is involved in the infection of the host cell. Their vaccine candidate has been engineered to display the spike protein in a manner that mimics the actual virus.
This becomes the fourth license agreement between K-State and corporate partners on technologies related to Covid-19.
"As the world's foremost global food and biosecurity science university, K-State is committed to understanding and combatting zoonotic diseases and the viruses that cause them like SARS-CoV-2," said Peter Dorhout, vice president for research at K-State.
"To deploy our innovations at scale, our faculty need to combine forces with collaborative corporate partners like Tonix Pharmaceuticals as part of our land-grant mission to serve."