An oral vaccine developed by one of the Los Angeles Lakers owners could offer protection against COVID-19 without the need for an injection, reports CBS Los Angeles. Researchers at the Chan Soon-Shiong Research Institute in El Segundo are testing whether a series of capsules could work as well or even better than existing COVID vaccines.
“Having a vaccine at room temperature that could be a pill is life changing,” said senior physician Dr Tara Seery.
The oral vaccine is part of an experimental protocol tested on healthy volunteers. But since scientists are still unsure whether pills alone can prevent transmission, researchers are testing four different approaches.
Some participants have a chance and some don’t. Some, like Matt Henshaw, receive an injection and two sets of pills.
But administering the vaccine in a capsule is not the only thing that sets this vaccine apart from others.
While existing vaccines help create antibodies against the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus, ImmunityBio’s T-cell vaccine targets the globe in the middle – some of it scientists say is less prone to mutations.
“And the point of doing that is that we generate killer T cells,” said ImmunityBio founder and executive chairman Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owns the Lakers and Brain Vaccines.
ImmunityBio researchers hypothesize that they can create long-term protection against the virus by generating both killer T cells and antibodies.
Soon-Shiong believes there is reason to be optimistic for lasting protection, even though the vaccine candidate funded by Operation Warp Speed is still in the experimental stage and its safety and efficacy have yet to be proven.
“We know from the previous SARS-COV-1 in 2003, (that) people (who) were infected then have T cells that lasted for 17 years,” he said.
As for the oral administration of the vaccine, it is not only a question of avoiding an injection. Soon-Shiong thinks the combination of the two could be the key.
“By giving it a kick, we hope to develop T cells all around your body,” he said. “And by giving it orally, we protect the mucous membranes, the gut, and hopefully the nose, the mouth, because that’s how the virus comes in. It doesn’t get into your blood.
As for Henshaw, now that he has completed his vaccine and booster shots, he will be under intensive surveillance for the next 12 months and hopes his experience will encourage others to join a trial.
“The virus is mutating,” he said. “So, I hope we have some solutions.”
The trial is open to healthy adults under the age of 55 who are not pregnant and have not had COVID.
More information about the vaccine trial can be found on the ImmunityBio website.