Research Fellow from the University of the Philippines working on Oral COVID-19 Vaccine

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Yeast in Petri Dish - COVID-19 vaccine

An associate from the OCTA research team has begun work on the development of an oral COVID-19 vaccine. Fr. Nicanor Austriaco stated te vaccine is intended to be an easier to distribute, and lower cost alternative to the current COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are basically taking a human probiotic yeast…and we are engineering that yeast to express a fragment of the Sars-COVID 2 virus. And our hope is that we will be able to take this yeast and we will be able to use the yeast to be able to stimulate the immune response, the protective response of the body, for Filipinos and other third world developing countries,”

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco

Austriaco is a molecular biologist, and is working on his research while in the United States. The vaccine is Yeast Based, and he hopes to receive permission from the Philippine Government to conduct testing and clinical trials when he returns.

“My hope is to return to the Philippines next month with the yeast so we can do animal testing at UST (University of Santo Tomas). And if the animal testing works — it will take a few months for us to do that — then we will have to ask the Filipino government for permission to undertake clinical trial in the Philippines,” 

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco

Currently the Philippine FDA has given only the AstraZenca and Pfizer vaccines emergency use clearance. The governments Science and Technology Secretary, Fortunato de la Peña, has stated that clinical trials for several other COVID-19 vaccines, including the Chinese Sinovac will be begin soon.

Austriaco has illustrated to the government the need for rapid approval and roll-out of the vaccine, pointing to Israel where 25% of the population were vaccinated before there was a marked improvement in COVID-19 cases. The Philippines really needs to target at least 15% – 20% of the total population to be vaccinated before it can expect the lifting of the restrictions on activities and movement.

The Philippines, along with other less developed economies, needs an easier to distribute COVID-19 vaccine. The current offerings from Pfizer and Moderna that are based on mRNA technology pose problems both with their initial cost, but also the ancillary costs associated with the cold chain distribution requirements of those vaccines. Countries such as the Philippines simply do not have the established transportation network and ultracold refrigerators that those vaccines require. A yeast-based, oral COVID-19 vaccine would go a long way to solving this logistical problem.

This story was first published on CNN Philippines


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