A Covid-19 investigational vaccine developed by Duarte-based City of Hope scientists and now licensed to Atlanta-based GeoVax Labs Inc., produced a robust neutralizing antibody and immune cell response against the virus in a Phase 1 clinical trial, according to a peer-reviewed study published March 9 in the journal Lancet Microbe and subsequently announced by City of Hope.
The study was led by John Zaia, a gene therapy scientist and director of the Center for Gene Therapy at City of Hope. Fellow City of Hope scientist Don Diamond, professor in the department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Transplantation, was the lead developer of the vaccine.
Unlike the Covid vaccines currently on the market that mostly target just the so-called “spike” proteins on the surface of the virus, the vaccine from City of Hope targets both the spike proteins and an additional layer inside the virus’ nucleus. Because of this dual approach, the vaccine is being tested in Phase 2 clinical trials on immunocompromised cancer patients.
The study published in the Lancet Microbe examined the results of the now-concluded Phase 1 clinical trial at City of Hope. In that trial, 58 healthy adult volunteers participated; 34 of those participants received two doses of the vaccine candidate drug 28 days apart. Five received two placebo doses and 13 volunteers received a first dose of the vaccine and a second dose of the placebo.
All vaccinated volunteers reached the primary immunological endpoint – defined as a four-fold increase of antibodies against the spike or nucleocapsid protein – eight weeks after the first dose.
“This data confirms the powerful dual action of our vaccine,” Diamond said in the announcement. “Given the multiple mutations in spike, leading to variants of concern and inconsistent protection from existing FDA-approved vaccines, we are excited about our approach incorporating two antigens in one vaccine.”
City of Hope in November decided to license the vaccine technology to GeoVax Labs for further clinical trials and development. Financial terms of the license agreement were not disclosed.