'Universal vaccine' to beat ALL Covid strains could be available within the year as British scientists battle bug

A UNIVERSAL vaccine that can beat all strains of Covid could be available within a year, scientists have said.

British experts at the University of Nottingham are developing the catch-all jab which will hopefully end the need to keep tweaking vaccines as the virus mutates.

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UK company Scancell – which develops cancer jabs – are working with the academics to create the new variant-proof vaccine which is hoped to be ready in 2022, reports The Telegraph.

Human trials of their hopefully universal Covid vaccine will begin in the second half of this year, after positive results from testing the jab on mice.

Scancell chief medical officer Dr Gillies O’Bryan-Tear said: "We don’t necessarily claim it will be a pan-coronavirus vaccine, but it has got the potential to be so simply because of where it is targeted.”

The virus continues to mutate as mankind fights against the pandemic – becoming new versions such as the South African, Brazilian and Bristol variants of Covid.

It has complicated the battle against the bug as scientists are left fearing whether or not their carefully crafted vaccines can beat these rapidly changing mutant strains.

Existing vaccines like the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs target Covid's spike protein- however their efficacy is impacted as this element of the virus changes.

The new universal vaccine is hoped to target a different protein in the core of the virus which will allow the jab to knock it out even as it mutates.

Britain is currently one of the world's leading nations in administering the jab as we continue to wrestle with getting Covid under control.

The country has now edged closer to hitting the tremendous milestone of having 15million people jabbed, with Boris Johnson tweeting so far 14,556,827 have been given the vaccine.

And a universal vaccine would be another major victory in helping to steer the world back to normal after almost 2.4million people have been killed by Covid.


Scancell is calling for more funding to progress its new vaccine through clinical trial – hoping for a large pharmaceutical partner and investment of hundreds of millions of pounds.

Dr O'Bryan-Tear was optimistic the vaccine could be developed within a year – pointing to a similar timeframe for the first Covid jabs.

He said: "There is no reason why, if we get a partner, we shouldn't be able to do it as quickly as the others have done it."

The doctor added: "I think the pandemic will be around for two or three more years, because of supply, because of not being able to vaccinate developing countries.

"During that time, the virus will mutate, so there are plenty of opportunities for new entrants to try their hand.”

Scientists have however said there may not be a need for the new vaccines.

No evidence has yet conclusively shown that the existing vaccines are ineffective against the new variants – although the virus is expected to continue to mutate.

Biotech firms myNEO in Belgium and Osivax in France are also developing similar jabs – with the latter just completing trials of a similar shot designed to be a universal flu vaccine.

 

Scientists at myNEO have said they are using modelling to suggest which parts of the virus will stay stable – and then specifically targeting their vaccine.

Universal vaccines face significant hurdles and are understood to be very difficult to develop.

Scientists have been working for decades without successfully developing a catch-all jab for the flu.

Professor Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College, said: “It’s not science fiction, but it’s not trivial.”

It comes as Covid deaths dropped by a quarter this week as 621 people died today and 13,308 tested positive.

The total number of fatalities now stands at 116,908.

Mr Johnson said today he was "cautiously optimistic" as he prepares to reveal his roadmap out of the shutdown.

Deaths have continued to drop in a tentative sign the lockdown is working and Britain is getting over the darkest days of the pandemic – with hopes pubs may be back open in April.

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