A new COVID-19 vaccine trial has started in Australia which doesn’t involve needle injections.
The Covalia trial is using a jet injector to deliver a DNA vaccine to healthy volunteers. The device is one of the key features of the new vaccine trial which is recruiting adults in Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth.
“What we’re doing in this particular trial is just taking the DNA code and using a special needle-free device, to force under a mechanical force that DNA genetic code into the cells,” the trial’s lead investigator, Associate Professor Nick Wood from the University of Sydney, said.
The device is already used in the US to deliver the flu jab but is only approved in Australia for research.
“It really is the key to get the genetic code into the cells,” Dr. Wood said.
The approach is different from how currently approved vaccines are created.
Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is coated with fatty nanoparticles to deliver the genetic code while AstraZeneca’s vaccine uses a harmless virus to infect the cells.
The Covigen vaccine is designed to deliver DNA instructions to teach the body’s cells to make the COVID-19 spike proteins, the knobs that project from the surface of the virus, so the immune system can build a defense.
“Overall we hope to get 150 people on this Phase 1 trial to look at the safety and immune responses,” Dr Wood said.
Trial investigator Professor Peter Richmond said the needle-free approach could be the way of the future.
“It’s very easy to give and I didn’t really feel it too much at all,” he said.
“I think it’s important to evaluate this as a way of delivering vaccines.”
Experts say the pandemic has sparked a revolution in the use of gene-based vaccines.
“It’s important I think to have many vaccines in our kit and in the future we’re possibly going to have mix-and-match schedules so it might well be that you get primed with vaccine A but you then get a booster with vaccine B,” Dr. Wood said.
The trial is being led by the University of Sydney at Scientia Clinic.