14 May 2021

Instead of or together?

To neutralize all possible variants of the coronavirus, some biotech companies have targeted T-cell vaccines

Marina Astvatsaturyan, Echo of Moscow

One of the most difficult issues related to the pandemic concerns the possibility of neutralizing emerging new variants of coronavirus with available vaccines. In one recent study, it was found that antibodies produced in response to the introduction of existing vaccines do not cope with some of the new variants. However, the second immune response in the form of killer T cells that attack already infected cells, and not the virus itself, is still quite effective.

Several startups are currently working on creating vaccines focused on T cells, hoping to get a drug that will not only protect against new strains of the virus that have already declared themselves, but also from its variants that do not yet exist, writes MedicalXpress.com. For example, the French company OSE Immunotherapeutics, which is developing a vaccine aimed at T cells, has just started its clinical trials. "Such a vaccine can create protection for several years," says the head of the company, Alexis Peyroles.

Another French company, Osivax, also working on a T-cell drug, promises a "universal" vaccine that will be effective against any possible variant. The French government, which has yet to create its own antitussive vaccine, supports the attempts of these companies with millions of investments. Such projects are not very common. Among the 400 vaccines being developed, according to WHO, only a few are aimed at universal use. The ImmunityBio vaccine, created in the USA, is considered the most advanced among them, the most preliminary results of its tests, published a month ago, seem promising.

None of the laboratories is waiting for a finished product before next year, and many scientists are rather skeptical about the idea of creating a vaccine against a non-existent strain. "Mass vaccination itself is a form of evolutionary 'selective' pressure," says British virologist Julian Tang from the University of Leicester. "And this pressure should force the virus to evolve in such a way as to avoid any vaccine exposure, so it's a double-edged sword," he adds.

Another question concerns the body's ability to defeat the virus with just a T-cell immune response. To form a full-fledged immune defense, T cells must act together with antibodies. In Europe and in the USA, if a T-cell vaccine appears, it will be given to those who have already received a vaccine that causes the production of antibodies.

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