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A Plant-based SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine

Researchers at a Canadian biotechnology company Medicago have developed a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine is produced by inserting the SARS-CoV-2 protein into the nuclei of benthi plants (Nicotiana benthamiana, commonly found in Australia). This is then transfected into a bacterial cell (Agrobacterium tumefaciens) to use as a vector. These cells are then injected into the bloodstream, where they express the S protein to stimulate the immune system. In a phase 1 trial, adults aged between 18 and 55 were injected with a plant-produced virus-like particle (VLP).

The trial indicates that this novel VLP developed to combat SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19 disease, shows strong immunogenic properties and no serious adverse effects.

The research tested this compound in three different magnitudes (3.75 μg, 7.5 μg, and 15 μg), each either adjuvanted with CpG1018, AS03, or without an adjuvant. CpG 1018 and AS03 are compounds commonly added to vaccines to induce a more robust immune response by the body.

All participants received their second dosage 21 days after their first and were sampled again on day 42 (after initial injection). As expected, the addition of either CpG 1018 or AS03 adjuvants did aid and increase the immunogenic response exhibited by the body, particularly so with AS03. Mild adverse effects such as injection site pain were seen and a fifth reported experiencing headaches or fatigue.

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