By Cecile Mantovani
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, January 19 (Reuters) - Swiss medical researchers said on Wednesday that they have launched an early study to test a next generation of COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which would be administered via an arm patch, the latest to see on alternative methods of giving injections.
Unlike conventional antibodies that stimulate antibody production, the new PepGNP-Covid19 vaccine candidate focuses on T cells, which are responsible for cellular immunity, to eliminate cells infected by the virus and prevent it from replicating.
The British company Emergex Vaccines Holding Ltd developed the potential vaccine, while the Unisanté Medical Research Center in Lausanne in collaboration with the city's CHUV hospital will run the trial, which started on 10 January.
Professor Blaise Genton, head of the study, said that this cellular immunity generates so-called "memory cells", which could make the vaccine more durable and could be better than others at protecting against potential variants of the virus.
The possible vaccine will be administered via microneedles in the patch that are less than a millimeter deep, which they hope will provide long-term immunity to COVID-19 and eliminate the need for seasonal booster shots.
"With this new vaccine generating this cellular immunity, we hope to have a longer period of protection ... we do not know yet, but it may be a year, two years, three years," Genton told Reuters.
To administer the vaccine, the patch will be pressed briefly against the skin and then removed.
The study is the first in the world with the new candidate and follows the start last year of yet another study in Lausanne to assess the safety of a new generation of dengue vaccine using the same technology.
Emergex Vaccines Holding Ltd announced in November that they would begin testing the COVID-19 vaccine. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pharmaceutical companies are developing other ways to deliver vaccines. India's Bharat Biotech and partners Codagenix Inc and India's Serum Instituteis are each testing a nasal COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
PepGNP-Covid19 researchers began vaccinating 26 volunteers last week and plan to give them two doses each - a base dose and a slightly stronger one. They will follow the volunteers for six months. (Reporting by Cecile Mantovani Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)
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