SARS-CoV-2: DZIF scientists and the development of vaccines

Scientists and physicians at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) have been working towards developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus as rapidly as possible. Here is a glimpse of the developments.

Vaccine Platform No. 1

Prof. Gerd Sutter, a virologist at the LMU Munich, is leading a group of scientists in the development of a so-called vector vaccine which uses the “modified vaccinia virus Ankara” (MVA) as a viral vector. MVA was developed at the LMU as a vaccine against smallpox over 30 years ago. MVA viruses are attenuated, and can therefore be used as harmless vectors for other vaccines. At the DZIF, this vector was used to successfully develop a vaccine against the MERS coronavirus which is closely related to SARS-CoV-2. It is currently undergoing clinical trials.

Vaccine Platform No. 2

In order to reach the goal of developing a vaccine as quickly as possible, scientists at the DZIF are in addition conducting research on a second vaccine development platform, alongside MVA. Directed by DZIF scientist PD Dr Michael Mühlebach the measles vaccine is tested as a vector presenting foreign viral proteins. The measles vaccine has been safely used and has been highly effective in billions of vaccinees since the 1960s. Now, this vector is combined with a protein of SARS-CoV-2 acting as target for the immune reaction. These so-called recombinant virus vaccines have already been generated and are currently being produced, and will subsequently be characterised both in vitro and in vivo.