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Potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by UPMC, Pitt

There is a potential vaccine for COVID-19, doctors and researchers from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh announced Thursday.

The vaccine, which is delivered through a fingertip-sized patch, produces what is thought to be enough antibodies to neutralize the virus.

Researchers said viruses closely related to the new coronavirus show that spike proteins are important when it comes to inducing immunity. The potential vaccine works like the current flu vaccine in that it uses lab-made pieces of viral protein to build immunity.

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The potential vaccine is being called PittCoVacc, short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine.

The fingertip-sized patch increases the potency of the vaccine through the use of 400 tiny needles that deliver the spike protein pieces into the skin, where the immune reaction is strongest, officials said. It goes on like a Band-Aid and the needles dissolve into the skin because they’re made up of sugar and the protein pieces.

“It’s actually pretty painless. It feels kind of like Velcro,” said Louis Falo, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of dermatology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC.

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The process of applying for an investigational new drug approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been started, with anticipation of starting a phase I human clinical trial in the next few months.

“Testing in patients would typically require at least a year and probably longer,” Falo said. “This particular situation is different from anything we’ve ever seen, so we don’t know how long the clinical development process will take. Recently announced revisions to the normal processes suggest we may be able to advance this faster.”

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