A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have advanced a Covid-19 vaccine candidate into preclinical tests in animal models.

Led by professor Christopher Love from MIT’s Koch Institute for Iterative Cancer Research, the team worked to develop preclinical materials for rapid progress of the candidate to clinical trials.

The candidate is said to be a subunit vaccine, which uses a small part of the virus’ protein to stimulate the immune system to detect the virus and prevent infection of host cells.

Commonly, subunit vaccines act by triggering antibodies that attach to and neutralise the virus, helping the body fight the virus.

While Love’s team is performing immunogenicity and formulation studies for this vaccine candidate, they are also working to create more vaccine candidates.

Simultaneously, the MIT team is focused on manufacturing an affordable vaccine at a large-scale, with an aim to produce billions of doses. The researchers collaborated with the Gates Foundation to work on towards their manufacturing goal.

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Currently, the US Department of Health and Human Services is aiding Janssen Pharmaceuticals in developing 300 million vaccine doses.

The Love Lab is expediting the readiness of preclinical materials for manufacturing in order to meet the estimated requirement of billions of vaccine doses.

Love noted: “To reach the widest number of people, we need to be very intentional about incorporating in aspects of the manufacturability of a vaccine, even at the early stages of discovery.”

By concurrently working on the manufacturing process and animal testing, the team hopes to cut the time needed to transfer their processes to manufacturers.

In a statement, the team said: “By overlapping these stages of development, the whole process becomes streamlined, as manufacturers learn to work with materials, becoming better-prepared to produce vaccines at the scale needed once trials are completed.”