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Doctors in Pennsylvania say they've developed potential coronavirus vaccine

University of Pittsburgh scientists say they've developed a potential COVID-19 vaccine using micro-needles on a patch that goes on like a Band-Aid.

PITTSBURGH — Scientists at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine announced they have found a potential vaccine against the new coronavirus that has spread into a pandemic.

UPMC said the scientists tested the vaccine on mice and found it produces antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 that can neutralize the virus. Researchers dubbed the vaccine, which would be given through a fingertip-sized skin patch, PittCoVacc, short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine. 

Researchers were able to quickly find a potential cure because they laid the groundwork during earlier coronavirus epidemics.

“Our ability to rapidly develop this vaccine was a result of scientists with expertise in diverse areas of research working together with a common goal,” said co-senior author Louis Falo, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of dermatology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC.

However, Falo said in a paper for EBioMedicine magazine that testing patients will last about a year or longer. 

"This particular situation is different from anything we’ve ever seen, so we don’t know how long the clinical development process will take. Recently announced revisions to the normal processes suggest we may be able to advance this faster, "Falo said.

The researchers also used a new approach to deliver the drug, called a microneedle array, to increase potency. UPMC explained that the patch goes on like a Band-Aid and then the tiny needles — which are made entirely of sugar and the protein pieces — simply dissolve into the skin.  

Credit: UPMC
Microneedle Array Vaccine: The vaccine is delivered into the skin through a fingertip-sized patch of microscopic needles.

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The authors are in the process of applying for an investigational new drug approval. The Federal Drug Administration's U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research External (CBER) is responsible for regulating vaccines in the United States.

As part of vaccine development, there's a multiple-step approval process that typically includes an application, an inspection of the manufacturing facility and getting the drug approved by a biological products advisory board.

So far, the virus worldwide has more than 980,000 confirmed cases and it has killed more than 50,000.

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