Dr Jan Groen
Nasal spray vaccines could help play a significant part in the fight against COVID-19.
Developing new and innovative delivery methods for vaccines can play a significant part in helping to stop the spread of major diseases such as COVID-19.
While needles and injections are the most common way of administering vaccination, the advantages and attraction of nasal spray vaccine for viral respiratory infections are gaining prominence.
Dr Jan Groen, who has spent much of his professional life in healthcare with a strong background in vaccine development, indicates that in COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) alternatives to injection for vaccine delivery could prove crucial in some populations and cultures.
The use of a nasal spray
There is an array of benefits from use of nasal spray vaccines, particularly for respiratory viruses.
Dr Groen says: “The beauty of a nasal spray vaccine is that it is used in the nose, where the virus replicates and that will lower the risk of mutations. It is quickly induced, giving local mucosal immunity, with fast protection after the first vaccination and it can also be mixed with all other vaccines on the market.”
With 35% of adults and up to 50% of children having a fear of needles, nasal spray vaccines are an appealing alternative for large parts of the population.
It also means that those delivering the vaccine may need less training than those administering it via an injection. “It is a relatively easy way to make this type of vaccine available for developing nations because needles are more complicated and present the risks of infection, while nasal sprays are easy to administer.” he adds.
It is a relatively easy way to make this type of vaccine available for developing nations because needles are more complicated and present the risks of infection, while nasal sprays are easy to administer.
New research under way into nasal spray vaccines
At present, there are more than 250 COVID-19 vaccines in development around the world, though only eight are nasal sprays and only one of those developed in Europe, from Dutch developer Intravacc, has at this stage moved beyond pre-clinical trials and toward a phase I trial.
SARS-CoV-2 vaccines that are currently approved are all based on intramuscular immunisation, while Intravacc’s approach uses its proprietary outer membrane vesicle (OMV) vaccine technology platform, which can be used for developing both viral and bacterial vaccines.
The Avacc COVID-19 vaccine is based on purified and concentrated non-infectious, immune stimulatory vesicles from bacteria that are linked to recombinant stabilised spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 thereby creating the Avacc vaccine that will be administered intranasally. Avacc will be tested in a first in-human clinical study in January 2022. These OMV vesicles can form the basis of new and evolved vaccines for COVID-19 and many other infectious diseases, or combination vaccines, for example for the development of a combined COVID-19-Flu vaccine.
Intravacc’s intranasal Avacc COVID-19 vaccine candidate not only induce high mucosal and systemic immune responses but are cheap to manufacture in high quantities and can be stored at 4°C for up to five years.
In case of a pandemic, synthetic or recombinant peptides and/or proteins derived from sequence analysis of the pathogen can be quickly produced and coupled to the OMVs.
Dr Groen, who has been CEO of Intravacc since May 2020, says that from preclinical trials the early indications are that the vaccine offers 100% protection against COVID-19 with no damage to the nose or lungs. The aim is for the nasal spray vaccine to be available by the end of 2022 with two doses administered three weeks apart.
Intravacc has more than a century of experience in vaccine development with a high proportion of all childhood vaccines globally currently containing the company’s knowhow or technology.
Dr Groen also believes that a safe and easy-to-administer nasal vaccine with no side effects will help enhance uptake of COVID vaccine, particularly among those with needle phobia.
He adds: “We are very pleased with this pre-clinical data of our revolutionising intranasal Avacc candidate vaccine. This allows us to move quickly towards an in human combined phase I and II clinical trial.”