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India-based pharmaceutical firm Zydus Cadila has launched a fast-tracked research programme to develop a vaccine against the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Covid-19.

The company’s teams in India and Europe will leverage two different methods to develop the vaccine.

One approach involves the creation of a DNA vaccine against the viral membrane protein required for the virus’ entry into the cell.

In host cells, the delivered plasmid DNA would translate into the viral protein and trigger an immune response via the cellular and humoral arms of the immune system. These arms are known to help to protect from disease and viral clearance.

The second method will see the development of a live attenuated recombinant measles virus (rMV) vectored vaccine to fight the new coronavirus.

Codon-optimised proteins of the new coronavirus, expressed by rMV generated, will use reverse genetics to stimulate long-term neutralising antibodies that protect against the infection.

A team at the company’s Vaccine Technology Centre in India is working on the plasmid DNA vaccine, while its research unit at Etna Biotech in Europe is working on measles reverse genetics technology.

Zydus Group chairman Pankaj Patel said: “There is an urgent and pressing need to develop a safe and efficacious vaccine that can prevent the spread of this deadly virus. Our researchers are working to bring a speedy solution to this most devastating outbreak in recent times.”

The company’s manufacturing facilities for recombinant antigens and measles-containing vaccines will allow scale-up both vaccine candidates’ production.

Last week, biotechnology firm Codagenix partnered with vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India to co-develop a vaccine against Covid-19.