Israel’s Institute for Biological Research announced on Sunday it will commence human trials of its coronavirus vaccine in a week, with the goal of gaining approval for general use by Spring 2021, according to media reports.
The Institute, which operates under the Ministry of Defense, outlined the process: first phase of the testing will involve two initial participants, increasing to 80 during November. If they respond well to the vaccine — developing antibodies against the virus — the testing will expand to 960 people beginning in December.
If that larger group responds well to the vaccine, injections will then be given to some 30,000 people in April or May 2021. If all continues to go well, the vaccine can then be approved for use in the general population.
“This is a day of hope for the citizens of Israel… Just two months ago I was presented with the first bottle of the vaccine. Today we already have 25,000 vaccine doses and are starting the next phase of the testing,” proclaimed Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
“I would like to thank the dozens of researchers who worked day and night on this national mission,” he continued. “In this complex period, you are the unit that paves the way for the citizens of Israel.”
IIBR director, Prof. Shmuel Shapira added that this is an “important and crucial stage” in the development of the vaccine.
“I am confident in our vaccine, I believe in it and in the ability of the institute scientists who developed it,” he said.
IIBR’s vaccine is based on a well-known method of vaccination, the institute has said. The novel element is the use of a vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) – a type of virus that does not cause diseases in humans. Through genetic engineering, proteins are attached to the VSV virus to form coronavirus “crowns” that are identified by the body as COVID-19. This stimulates the body to produce antibodies against it.
IIBR has been preparing for several years for an unknown threat such as this one. As part of the scientific preparation, the institute purchased and set up a national infrastructure for rapid identification of epidemic pathogens and developed tools for rapid vaccine planning in response to outbreaks.