A group of scientists from Ege University in the western Turkish province of Izmir completed preclinical work on a DNA vaccine against coronavirus. The vaccine is among a small number of domestically developed jabs under development in Turkey, which rolled out its first vaccine, Turkovac, last year.
Professor Adnan Yüksel Gürüz, director of Vaccine Application, Research and Development Center at Ege University, said they have been working on vaccine development since 2007 in other fields and switched from an anti-parasite vaccine to an anti-COVID-19 jab in March 2020, the month Turkey reported its first coronavirus cases.
"Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) fast-tracked our application for vaccine development and supported us. In one year, we achieved optimization of the vaccine for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and we are capable of producing up to 2,000 doses of vaccine. We contacted a company to assist in human trials," he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Thursday. Gürüz said animal trials gave promising results assuring long-term vaccine efficacy. "Our data shows that it can provide protection up to two years with the third dose," he said.
There are only a few DNA vaccines against the coronavirus in the world. The existing ones mostly rely on messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, inactive vaccines and jabs working on other antiviral medical technologies. India became the first country to approve a DNA vaccine last year while several other countries are also developing their own version of the vaccine.
DNA vaccines are mainly used for animal health but animal trials of several DNA-based vaccines proved that they can stimulate protein production in the body which in turn produces an antibody response, crucial for fighting the infections. Several DNA vaccines received approval globally in the 2000s, including a vaccine for horses for West Nile virus and a canine vaccine among others. However, several studies have shown that DNA-based vaccines are less effective than mRNA ones as more doses are needed to stimulate an immune response.
Turkey is pursuing an ambitious vaccination program against coronavirus and has managed to bring down the number of daily cases below 20,000. More than 146 million doses were administered since the program began in January 2021. Nearly 53 million people have been administered two doses of the vaccine. Currently, the country offers Pfizer-BioNTech's mRNA vaccine, Sinovac's inactive vaccine CoronaVac and locally developed Turkovac.