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Macau scientists outline importance of new COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough

Scientists involved in potentially game changing research into a COVID-19 vaccine out of the Faculty of Medicine at Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) have outlined the key findings of their work, suggesting mass production of the vaccine could be feasible in the near future.

As previously reported, the team from MUST, working in collaboration with scientists from mainland China and Hong Kong, found that a vaccine developed using certain residues found in the Spike protein receptor-binding domain (S-RBD) – which is what the virus uses to engage with the cells of the host and cause infection – induced a “potent functional antibody response” in immunized mice, rabbits and monkeys.

These antibodies effectively blocked S-RBD from binding with the host cell receptor as it does in cases of infection, therefore neutralizing the virus during laboratory studies.

The peer-reviewed results from the team’s research were published in the leading British science journal Nature last Wednesday 29 July.

Via a press release shedding further light on their work, Professor Kang Zhang from MUST, who led the collaborative research team, stated, “Our finding highlights the importance of the RBD domain in the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) vaccine design and provides the rationale for the development of a protective vaccine through the induction of antibody against the RBD domain.

“The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential of a candidate vaccine based on the RBD domain of SARS-CoV-2, to evaluate the appropriate dosing regime and to test its effect in generating neutralizing activity against SARS-CoV-2 in the recipient animals, and determine the immune pathways involved in the generation of the immune response, so as to provide the groundwork for the design of an effective SARS-CoV-2 preventive vaccine.

“The vaccine had given a potent and complete protection of vaccinated animals including monkeys.”

Dr Johnson Lau, Adjunct Professor of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology of PolyU, explained that the biotechnology method used in creating the recombinant RBD vaccine is mature and feasible in aiding a mass vaccine production and is expected to provide a practical solution to fight against COVID-19.

Professor Alexander Wai, Deputy President and Provost of PolyU said the vaccine shapes as “the best vaccine choice to combat this pandemic.”

The next step, according to Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of MUST, Professor Manson Fok, will be to initiate human trials with the clear goal of mass production.

“To move forward, the efficacy of the vaccine needs to be evaluated and validated in human clinical trials which will be initiated shortly,” he said.

“With our concerted efforts this breakthrough in COVID-19 vaccine is achieved and we wish mass vaccinations can be conducted in the nearest future.”

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