By inserting gene sequences from the new coronavirus into its experimental influenza vaccine, Madison-based FluGen hopes to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 that also might protect against flu.
The company’s coronavirus immunization candidate, CoroFlu, is one of roughly 100 or more competitors in a global race to produce a safe and effective vaccine against the virus, which health officials say could be the surest way to end the pandemic. Another Madison company, Pan Genome Systems, is also working on a COVID-19 vaccine.
Unlike most contenders, CoroFlu would be a nasal spray, potentially triggering two types of immunity. “We’re coming at it from a different angle,” FluGen CEO Paul Radspinner said.
A handful of vaccine candidates using a variety of approaches have reached tests in humans, with a clinical trial of CoroFlu possible by August. No inoculations are expected to be approved for at least a year, but even that would be record speed.
“That is incredibly accelerated when you consider most vaccines have been in development 10 to 15 years before they come to market,” said Dr. Jonathan Temte, a family medicine professor and associate dean at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
Temte is on the newly formed COVID-19 vaccine work group of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which makes vaccine recommendations for the federal government. A previous chair of the committee, Temte said more than one vaccine may be needed against the coronavirus.
“It’s very likely there will be a number of these used across the world,” he said. “This may be the game changer that allows life to get back to normal.”