By Gloria Borger, CNN
(CNN) - A new vaccine developed by J. Craig Venter, who was the first person to sequence the human genome, has been shown to work in the short-term, but more testing is needed to determine if it could offer protection from the dangerous coronavirus (CNV) that has caused the global health emergency that started two years ago.
The ClinicalTrials.gov database shows that the vaccine, which is a mixture of two naturally occurring pathogens and two top-secret monoclonal antibodies, is now being tested on 75 participants in the United States.
Last fall, after a yearlong study in animal cells, the J. Craig Venter Institute reported that the HPV vaccine met its goals to deliver long-lasting protection against a strain of the human papillomavirus that has been shown to cause genital warts, but not yet shown to cause cervical cancer.
"In an ideal world, we would not have started the studies in animals," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "It was viewed at the time as a ‘nice to have.' But since there had been no experience in people, we had to get something going."
Fauci thinks the team came together in a "cooperative" way, which he believes is something to do with Venter's new company, Galois BioTech, which focuses on combating diseases of the immune system.
"He wanted to put together something that was going to meet all of the things he is looking for with his new company, which is a central role in his life," Fauci said.
The research for the vaccine was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The next steps will be to test the vaccine on animals, which is what Venter's company will do, and to run more clinical trials, he said.
"Once we get through these Phase 1 trials in our animal models, we're hoping that we would have done everything we could, given all of the new information, to be able to induce an immune response that would cause protective immune responses and protection against multiple strains of [corona virus]," Venter said.
The scientists are testing whether the nasal spray with adenovirus 4, which is naturally found in the respiratory tract, and lentivirus 2, which infects the eye, confer protective immunity against the coronavirus. The NIH is also conducting studies in mice that test to see whether the vaccine stimulates antibodies to fight off the coronavirus.
"The vaccine has showed a number of its fundamental properties ... on human subjects. What we're just beginning is that we're testing the vaccine and the antibodies specifically against the coronavirus, which we're treating on these animals," Venter said.
"We are still hoping to derive broadly protective antibodies against the virus and ... based on that data, possibly develop some way of delivering the antibodies through the vaccine and being able to deliver those antibodies in a far more practical way than we can now," he said.
Researchers say that similar, but not the same, viral strains have been shown to cause disease among people who have recently been to the Middle East, but since the current wave of illness has not originated in that region, the World Health Organization is not considering recommending that people steer clear.
The coronavirus, first detected in the Middle East, started in bats and then spread to humans. Although lab evidence shows the virus to be similar to a coronavirus virus that causes severe pneumonia and kidney failure in bats, WHO has not made a link between the human outbreak and the bat virus.
Last November, WHO cautioned people who had traveled to the Middle East, including the Gulf States and Russia, to look out for signs of MERS-CoV infection.
Corona virus infection was first seen in 20 people who had traveled to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia.
While many have recovered without complications, nine people died from the virus, including two British citizens, a German, a Spanish and an Italian.
Scientists from the United States, Qatar, France, Britain, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Spain are leading the international effort to stop the outbreak by monitoring the virus and figuring out the best ways to prevent further infections.
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