Stanford tests new vaccine that could be more easily distributed

The Stanford team says the subunit technology they are testing also has a strong and well-documented safety record, in use around the world.

Video Transcript

- Researchers at Stanford are working on a new COVID vaccine they hope could someday help fight the pandemic in the developing world. And they're drawing on some familiar technology to do it. The story from our Luz Pena part of the ABC 7 News vaccine team.

LUZ PENA: The war against COVID-19 has unleashed a new generation of cutting-edge vaccines, some using [? generic ?] code to turn our own cells into tiny vaccine factories. But in the years to come, some researchers believe an old-school approach may help get more vaccine supplies to countries that need them.

BALI PULENDRAN: Many developing countries are yet to receive a single dose. And that reflects the inequity.

LUZ PENA: To help bridge the gap, Stanford Professor Bali Pulendran and colleagues at the University of Washington have begun experimenting with what's known as a subunit vaccine. The platform employs a fragment or antigen from a dead sample of the virus to trigger an immune response. He says the technique is one of the most common in the world.

BALI PULENDRAN: Subunit vaccines have been administered to hundreds of millions if not billions of people worldwide. And, in fact, they represent one of the main kinds of vaccines, for example the hepatitis B vaccine and the diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and so on.

LUZ PENA: But to make their candidate more effective against COVID-19, the team is adding helpers known as adjuvant that influence how the immune system reacts. Along with collaborators at the University of Washington, they tested roughly five adjuvants in a non-human primate study, including one that seemed to help neutralize the South African strain of COVID.

If they are successful, they believe the subunit vaccine could be more easily distributed globally since it doesn't require a deep-cold freezer or other special handlings.

BALI PULENDRAN: That's where I think that vaccines such as this have really an important contribution to make.

LUZ PENA: At Stanford, Luz Pena, ABC 7 News.