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We hope to distribute it next year

The researcher at IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic Felipe Garcia leads a project together with other centers in Barcelona, ​​Madrid, Santiago de Compostela and Brussels to develop the first Spanish messenger RNA vaccine against Covid-19, which he hopes can start shipping next year.

The mRNA method is the one used by Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but the vaccine that is developed in Spain, says García, has some differences: “We have designed the RNA in a different way: they took all the complete protein S and we chose some pieces, those that generate the greatest response from the immune system, following a computational model “.

Regarding its effectiveness, it considers that “it should be similar” or even “in the longer term”, but remarks that it is still too early to tell. In addition, researchers are studying how this vaccine does not require the ‘deep freezing’ that Pfizer and Moderna do.

Human trials and efficacy against new variants

Regarding the development of the investigation, which began in May 2020, García points out that they already have “some positive results” and that they are waiting to finish the last studies in animals to evaluate the results and be able to “start in humans”.

Thus, clinical trials would take place throughout this year, so the distribution of the vaccine should wait until next year. Hopefully, if all goes well, we can distribute them next year, but in the field of vaccines and with the means we have, it is difficult to foresee how things will go ”, he says.

In addition, it explains that, in the event of the appearance of new variants, this vaccine is the only one in Spain that could adapt quickly, in a few weeks, so “having it in our country is very important.”

Importance of having multiple vaccines available

Given the development of several new vaccines, García considers that it is necessary be prepared for the worst case scenario: “We cannot put ourselves in the best possible situation because, if we stop all the investigation, we have to start from scratch again.”

In this sense, the hypothesis with which they work in this research is that current vaccines may not be enough faced with three possible scenarios: “That there are ‘leaks’ from the new variants, that it is necessary to vaccinate several times or that the pandemic becomes an endemic, that it stays with us for a long time and that, at least, some segment of the population has to be vaccinated repeatedly, as happens with the flu ”.

Faced with this possibility, García assures that “having multiple vaccines available would be important“and that the one that this consortium is developing” is a very promising candidate. “In addition, in case they were not necessary later,” at least we will be left with a technology in Spain that was not previously available and that will serve us for other things ” .

RNA vaccines for HIV

García, who is a researcher in the IDIBAPS research group on AIDS and HIV infection and a specialist in the HIV / AIDS Unit of Hospital Clínic, says that for about eight years working on RNA vaccines for HIV and that, in this field, they had previously worked with some partners of this consortium.

Regarding the vaccine against SARS-CoV2, he explains that “from the University of Barcelona and the Institut de Recerca de Barcelona, ​​which are the ones who make the computational models, the idea came up of the possibility of them designing vaccines and we put our candidates in motion so that we could manufacture them and be able to test them. “

The research and development of this mRNA vaccine “is a union of efforts between experts in different subjects“and in this project collaborate the Hospital Clínic, the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), the University of Barcelona, ​​the Institut de Recerca de Barcelona, ​​the Pompeu Fabra University, the Free University of Brussels, the Santiago University de Compostela, the National Center for Biotechnology and, for the further development and potential commercialization of the product, the company HIPRA.

Vaccine development in Spain, “a pending issue”

Developing vaccines in Spain for humans is a pending issue, says García. “The groups that worked the most developed vaccines for livestock, with several very strong companies, but in terms of human vaccines, manufacture of new vaccines, distribution … we were some academic groups, but it has not been at the level of livestock “.

In this sense, he points out that the pandemic has shown that “It is a necessity for Spain to invest in this type of vaccines“, since the levels of investment” have nothing to do with Germany or the United States “, but rather” there is an abysmal difference between the resources with which we work and with what they work with in other countries. “

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