The Phase I human trial of Israel’s coronavirus vaccine candidate began on Sunday with a 34-year-old patient, a doctoral student from southern Israel, at Hadassah Ein Kerem in Yerushalayim.
The vaccine candidate, known as Brilife, was developed by the Israel’s Institute for Biological Research. The country’s development of a vaccine is considered the most significant step toward being able to beat coronavirus.
Speaking Thursday evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that a vaccine is the only real way out of the pandemic lockdown, and that Israel was working on multiple fronts to obtain one. These include developing its own, purchasing promising vaccine candidates and negotiating with other countries to be able to acquire doses through them, if needed.
Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv also injected a first patient with the vaccine on Sunday. The first person to receive the vaccine at Sheba is a 26-year-old student from the north.
The Phase I human trial will last several months and ultimately be conducted on 80 health volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55. Each volunteer will be monitored over the course of three weeks to determine if there are any side effects caused by the vaccine. Researchers will also examine whether volunteers develop antibodies to coronavirus, which leads to immunity.
IIBR’s vaccine candidate is based on a well-known method of vaccination, the institute has said. What is new 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. As a result, the body produces antibodies against it.
The vaccine has already been tested on animals and found to be effective.
The name of Israel’s vaccine has meaning in Hebrew. The “bri” is the first part of the Hebrew word for health; the “il” stands for Israel and “life,” explained IIBR Director General Prof. Shmuel Shapira.