As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect millions of people around the world, researchers are scrambling to test a variety of vaccine candidates to provide a safe and effective measure to stop the spread and save lives. We’ve rounded up 6 different potential candidates being researched as of May 2020:


Candidate Name: PittCoVacc

Researching Institution(s): Sinovac Research and Development Co., Ltd.

Current Trial Phase: Pre-Clinical

Details: Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPMC) are working on a potential COVID-19 vaccine known as “PittCoVacc”. When tested in mice, the vaccine successfully produced COVID-19 specific antibodies at high enough concentrations to neutralize the virus.

The delivery method of this vaccine was inspired by the scratch method used in smallpox vaccines. The vaccine is delivered through a small skin patch, called a microneedle array. The patch contains 400 tiny needles made of sugars and proteins that deliver pieces of spike protein into the skin. The patch sticks to the skin like a Band-Aid, then dissolves.

The research team produced the first published study on a potential COVID-19 vaccine. They were able to get a head start due to having already laid the groundwork during previous coronavirus epidemics.

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Candidate Name: bacTRL-Spike

Researching Institution(s): Symvivio Corporation

Current Trial Phase: Pre-Clinical

Details: British Columbia based Symvivo has commenced research involving a bacTRL platform to combat COVID-19. Their methods utilize an orally administered and genetically modified probiotic bacteria that colonizes the gut. The vaccine is contained in an oral lyophilized gel capsule that is similar in appearance to traditional probiotic supplements.

In Symvivo’s first vaccine candidate, bacTRL-Spike, the probiotic binds to intestinal epithelial cells to enable it to replicate, secrete, and deliver plasmid DNA molecules that encode antigenic transgenes and neutralizing nanobodies. These antigens are then translated into proteins that are recycled and presented via MHC-I molecules. This method stimulates both humoral and cell-mediated immune responses against spike protein, while also generating passive immunity from the nanobodies. This candidate is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial involving 84 healthy participants at varying doses including a placebo group. This research is taking place at the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology Dalhousie University.

Their second vaccine candidate involves the spike protein, nucleocapsid protein and matrix glycoprotein for a trivalent vaccine titled bacTRL-Tri.

Their third candidate is an immunoprophylaxis agent utilizing neutralizing nanobody encoding sequences. This method may provide immediate protection against COVID-19.

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Candidate Name: Currently Not Available

Researching Institution(s): University of Saskatchewan Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre

Current Trial Phase: Pre-Clinical

Details: Creating a vaccine candidate and proving it to be effective against COVID-19 in ferrets is a huge milestone that has been recently accomplished by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Center (VIDO-InterVac), based at the University of Saskatchewan.  When ferrets were exposed to the novel coronavirus after receiving two immunizations, “The vaccine induced a strong immune response, generated neutralizing antibodies, and decreased viral infection in the upper respiratory tract to almost undetectable levels.”

With this exciting progress, the next steps at VIDO-InterVac involve additional trials as well as further safety testing in preparation for human clinical trials, currently targeting to commence in the fall.

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Candidate Name: ChAdOx1 nCoV-19

Researching Institution(s): The University of Oxford, the Jenner Institute

Current Trial Phase: Phase 2/3

Details: Research of a vaccine candidate at the University of Oxford has progressed into Phase II/III of human trials.  These next phases are designed to involve a greater number of participants, including seniors and children.  The vaccine, labeled ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is made from a weakened adenovirus that normally infects chimpanzees, but has been modified to replicate in humans.  Additionally, this adenovirus has been integrated with genetic material used to produce the “Spike” glycoprotein, a protein typically found on the deadly SARS-CoV-2.  This Spike protein binds to the ACE2 receptor of human cells, allowing them entry and the ability to cause an infection.  The vaccine is designed to induce an immune response to the Spike protein on the weakened adenovirus, which would inhibit the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to enter the cells, thereby preventing an infection.

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Candidate Name: Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) live-attenuated vaccine

Researching Institution(s): University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Radboud University Medical Center; Faustman Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital

Current Trial Phase: Phase 2/3

Details: The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine is a previously developed live-attenuated vaccine, and before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, was used to prevent tuberculosis. It has also been shown to boost immune system functions to prevent and fight other diseases including leprosy, as well as respiratory tract infections. Because of the similarities between the symptoms of COVID-19 and the diseases the BCG vaccine has been shown to prevent, this could point to it being an effective, existing candidate to combat COVID-19.

The three institutions currently conducting or planning to conduct trials using the BCG vaccine are the University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Radboud University Medical Center and the Faustman Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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Candidate Name: INO-4800

Researching Institution(s): Inovio Pharmaceuticals; Center for Pharmaceutical Research, Kansas City. Mo.; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Current Trial Phase: Phase 1

Details: Inovio Pharmaceuticals has previous experience working with coronaviruses and developed a DNA vaccine (INO-4700) against MERS-CoV, another coronavirus related to COVID-19.  Currently, Inovio is working on developing a new DNA vaccine candidate for COVID-19. After receiving authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April, Inovio moved to start a Phase 1 human clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania and the Center for Pharmaceutical Research in Kansas City, MO. This Spring/Summer, Inovio is also planning to conduct a Phase 1/2 clinical trial in South Korea in partnership with the Center for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the International Vaccine Institute, and the Korea National Institute of Health.

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To support the continued research effort into COVID-19 and coronaviruses, we are happy to provide a discount of 10% off any products researchers are ordering for use in COVID-19 research. More information here.

You can also check out our featured COVID-19 related ELISA kits here.


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