Update April 4th, 2020:
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the OncoGen center, Timisoara, as the only one in Romania that is testing a vaccine against Covid-19.
Source: https://www.who.int/blueprint/priority-diseases/key-action/Novel-Coronavirus_Landscape_nCoV-4april2020.pdf (see page 5)
Update March 26th, 2020:
Researchers from Oncogen – Center for Gene and Cell Therapies in Cancer Treatment in Timișoara, Romania have announced that they have succeeded in taking an important step towards the vaccination against Sars-Cov-2. Virgil Păunescu, the director of the center, announced on Facebook yesterday evening that the first tests have begun in Timișoara.
“A very important day for OncoGen: we have the vaccine (the equivalent of 1,000 doses). Today we start testing. Yesterday I finished the synthesis of the vaccine. From now on the tests begin,“said Virgil Păunescu.
Two weeks ago, the director of the Oncogen center wrote, also on the social network, that researchers from Timișoara are going to receive reagents from Germany “to start the first tests and to start the procedures for validating the vaccine. Then we will do a more complex verification of the efficiency of these peptides on human cells.” Virgil Păunescu also stated that earlier this month, together with the Oncogen research team, an article describing the technology of vaccine production against Covid-19 was published.
On the market in three to four months
The Oncogen director said that the process started in January. “We developed the technology in January. Since then we are struggling to synthesize, that is, to produce the vaccine. It is a protein mixture, in fact, only the proteins resemble those of the virus capsule. It was not easy to set them up. Now we have them and we started testing on human cells. If the tests in the next four weeks will be positive, we will start the discussion with the Medicines Agency for the phase one study, ten volunteers to vaccinate them” Păunescu told PRESSALERT.ro .
“It depends a lot on the Romanian authorities, because we have the vaccine factory on the third floor, but it was not put into operation because we did not have enough support. To test on humans, you must manufacture the vaccine in hygienic conditions, factory-manufactured. Yesterday I spoke with Mrs. Raluca Turcan and I told her that we need about 3.5 million euros, because those facilities should have been put into operation long time ago. We could move on to manufacturing in about two months. What you see in those ampoules must be manufactured under vaccine factory conditions, they are now manufactured under research conditions and there are differences. And then we will be able to pass, with the first countries in the world, to testing people“, explained Virgil Paunescu.
He believes that in about four months, if things go as planned and the study receives the necessary support, the vaccine could reach the market.
“The vaccine, as shown, is for research purposes. It will be the one that will be administered, but it must be manufactured under other conditions. We cannot vaccinate patients tomorrow, it will take several months if we are helped ”, concluded the researcher from Timisoara.
- https://www.capital.ro/a-fost-descoperit-vaccinul-impotriva-covid-19-au-inceput-testele.html (in Romanian)
As of today, in Romania there are 1029 people tested positive for Sars-Cov-2, 17 deaths and 93 patients recovered from Covid-19. The current situation is as it is highlighted in this Excel chart.
Update February 27, 2020
The so called Sars-Cov-2 vaccine turned out to be just an hypothesis and it’s in research phase, and we have no further data related to its development. Furthermore, after almost one month, the first Coronavirus infection in Romania is now confirmed. Meanwhile, Romanians are panicked.
Cancer specialists from the OncoGen Institute in Timișoara, Romania have published a study on Coronavirus treatment. According to them, the vaccine is developed through a technology used in personalized vaccination (oncogenic therapy) used in oncology.
How was the Coronavirus vaccine discovered?
“There are two ways of developing the Coronavirus vaccine (in Romania): to develop a vaccine to vaccinate the population globally and to stop the Coronavirus epidemic, or to develop a drug, as happened in hepatitis C or AIDS, to cure patients who have already been affected by Corona virus. We have resumed an older PHD coronavirus research, which we have been working on for about 4 years (Constantinescu et all.). It is a new approach to a Corona virus vaccine production in the case of a possible corona virus viral infections. As the scientific researchers know, personalized vaccination technology in cancer has emerged. There things are much more complicated compared to a cell infected by Corona virus, because the cancer cell looks very much like the normal cell and is much harder to recognize by the immune system. However, the Corona virus infected cell doesn’t change structure. So, to use these more complicated, more sophisticated methods in antiviral vaccination presents a great advantage”, Virgil Păunescu, director of the Oncogen Institute of the Timișoara County Hospital, told Jasmine Directory.
Personalized worldwide vaccination is not possible
Păunescu explained that personalized vaccination is not possible in case of an epidemic because hundreds of thousands or millions of people who would need the vaccine.
“We have combined these two methods, and the corona virus vaccine results are promising but, to play safe, we need the genetic profile of the populations to whom this vaccine supposedly is addressed. From the point of view of the immune system, there are some features common to different regions of the world. Our immune configuration (n.r. Romanians) is different from that of Asia, India, China, South America and is similar to the population of Europe and North America. It would be a personalized vaccine, population or regional. We have demonstrated that this vaccine can be obtained using data on the immune profile of the population in Romania. It can be applied by any laboratory in China.
We are proposing another way to produce a vaccine in case of viral infections in the case of more difficult viruses, for which it has not been possible to obtain the vaccine in the classical way”, said Păunescu.
Genotype of North America’s and Europe’s caucasians are almost identical
A personalized vaccine to protect EU against Coronavirus is already being developed using a technology similar to oncogene therapy used in different cancer types (e.g. breast cancer), announced the researchers of the OncoGen Institute from Timișoara.
Meanwhile, the killer virus makes new victims everyday. The National Health Commission of China announced on Thursday that 170 people died from the epidemic, and more than 1,700 cases were confirmed, so the total number reached 7,711.
According to them, traditional vaccines for viral diseases have had limited success in the case of viral outbreaks with a high frequency of mutations. The approach proposed by the specialists from Timișoara to identify the potential candidate peptides for the vaccine follows a more personalized strategy, called vaccinomics, based on the selection of target viral proteins with lower mutation rate and the construction of peptides adapted to the immune genetic characteristics of the target populations, which may vary depending on geographical location and ethnicity.
“Based on the variation in the allele encoding human MHC (human leukocyte antigen), peptide-based vaccines can be developed specifically for a community or an individual. The selection of peptides that can act as a vaccine is determined by the ability to bind the viral peptide processed with the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and II molecules and may vary depending on the relevant HLA alleles. Our peptide proposals are applicable to the Romanian population. This is an individualized population vaccine.” said prof. univ. Dr. Mircea Mihai, one of the researchers working on the coronavirus vaccine.
The scientist said that there’s also a compromise: “We cannot produce this vaccine on a large scale. We come up with a solution, which is a trade-off between industrial vaccination, the one practiced in the ordinary flu, and the individualized one, which does not apply, because it is expensive”.
“Taking into account the immune characteristics of the Caucasian population in Romania, which is found throughout Europe and North America, broadly speaking, the immune response to various antigenic stimuli, in this case to the coronavirus, and using published data (structure I have proposed a series of immunogenic peptides, a mixture that will cover, in practice, the whole population of Romania”, (Table 1 and Table 2) explained prof. univ. dr. Virgil Păunescu, coordinator of the research center OncoGen Timișoara and vice-president of the Romanian Academy of Medical Sciences.
The pneumonia virus from a fish market in Wuhan, known as the New Coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV), resembles viruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). According to Nature Briefing, by January 28, 2020, the number of confirmed cases has exceeded 4,500 patients, of which more than 100 people died from the infection. By comparison, SARS spread globally in 2002-2003, infecting 8,000 people and causing over 700 deaths.
Technology used in personalized Coronavirus vaccination
The immunogenic peptides were developed by OncoGen researchers from Timișoara by applying a technology used in personalized cancer vaccination, based on “long neoantigen peptides“. This technology is currently in clinical trials for cancer treatment. Using this example, other peptides can be identified both for the Caucasian population from different geographical regions and for other communities.
“This model is one between the strategy of the global industrial vaccination on a large scale and the personalized one at the individual level. We will continue with the validation of these peptides and of the model presented. We will order these peptides in Germany in powder form and bring them to Romania in almost a month. Then, we will check if they give the reactions we suspect in laboratory studies,” said Prof. Dr. Virgil Păunescu.
We’ve also created an infographic which aims to inform our readers about basic sars-Cov-2 need-to-know.