Covid-19 vaccine open source, make it in your kitchen
For the millions of people who do not have access to vaccines for Covid-19, a team of scientists from Boston has a possible solution. And it is literally a solution, which hopes to prevent the deadly virus.
The team is called Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, or RaDVaC, and their vaccine is so easy to make that team leader Preston Estep says we could do it in our kitchen.
Disadvantages: The vaccine has not been shown to work and does not have a marketing authorization. It has also not undergone time-consuming, costly clinical trials such as those performed by Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson. Trials of the vaccine have been conducted by RaDVaC scientists themselves and other colleagues such as George Church of Harvard Medical School, who believe the project has value.
Advantages: its production is very low cost and does not require high technology. The ingredients cost a penny and take less than an hour to mix together in your home - less time than it would take to make a loaf of bread.
"It's really easier than many recipes in cookbooks," says Estep, who has written a book on foods that promote brain longevity.
All materials - saline, coronavirus-like proteins and crosslinking chemicals, such as chitosan made from shellfish - can be purchased online without special permission. The recipe is open source, which means that anyone can use it.
"We want others to have the recipe," says Estep. "So we share the design, we make the vaccine and then we start testing it on ourselves."
In both rich and poor countries, there are still not enough vaccines for Covid. Jutta Paulus, a member of the European Parliament Green Party from Germany, said she had spoken to EU regulators, her health ministry and the World Health Organization about supporting and controlling the RaDVac vaccine. Unsuccessfully, however, as the team deals with non-governmental organizations and the pharmaceutical industry.
"I would take this vaccine experimentally," said Paulus. "My personal belief is that the risk is low and I do not expect many side effects, but it needs to be investigated."
A cheap, easily produced vaccine could be extremely important when the next pandemic comes, says Paulus.
How the vaccine works: The vaccine is essentially a mixture of parts of coronavirus proteins that recognize the human immune system. RaDVaC takes these parts, called peptides, and uses chitosan to concentrate them into nanoparticles that are similar in size to the son.
Nanoparticles have a positive charge. The scientists hope the particles will be recognized by the body's immune system, which will then activate protective antibodies and T cells to respond in the event of a real infection.
The protection of the nasal tissue is the key, because from there it is considered that the virus enters the body. The idea has been shown to work in animal experiments, Estep said.
Because the vaccine is so simple to make, it is also relatively easy to modify. RaDVaC has already built its 10th version, which includes copies of parts of the virus that are not included in commercial vaccines. Other parts are designed to protect against new variants that have appeared in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa. Major vaccine manufacturers are just beginning to test versions that target these mutations in humans.