The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has made ‘significant’ progress in creating a Covid-19 vaccine prototype and preparations are underway for animal testing, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Citing undisclosed sources, Reuters reported that trials are already taking place using rodents as test subjects.

IIBR, a secretive defence biological research institute, was instructed by Netanyahu in February to focus on medical solutions for the pandemic.

Reuters noted that three teams at IIBR are working to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 coronavirus infection, while others are exploring potential treatments.

At an online conference by Jerusalem Venture Partners, IIBR chief innovation officer Eran Zahavy was quoted as saying: “We are trying as much as we can to collaborate and have other ideas of other people.

“But the facility of the lab is very crowded and very busy and very dangerous so it has to be very slow and very cautious.”

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According to Zahavy, having an animal subject is ‘a very big challenge’ as the novel coronavirus is not affecting animals.

Zahavy added: “It’s not enough only to detect neutralising antibodies in the animal. You really want to see them getting sick and getting better by this vaccine.”

The IIBR is said to have a ‘unique animal’ for such type of tests.

Scientists at the institute are also collecting plasma from individuals who have recovered from Covid-19 infection to aid their research.

According to data from John Hopkin’s University in the US, Israel has nearly 6,000 confirmed cases and 20 deaths from Covid-19.

The country is implementing various measures, such as quarantine of all visitors, to combat the outbreak.

Last month, MIGAL Research Institute in Israel announced plans to start producing a Covid-19 vaccine in the next eight to ten weeks.

The vaccine is based on MIGAL’s avian coronavirus Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) vaccine.