Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)—affiliates of Harvard Ophthalmology and members of Mass General Brigham—today announced progress towards the testing and development of an experimental vaccine called AAVCOVID, a novel gene-based vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The AAVCOVID vaccine program was developed in the laboratory of Luk H. Vandenberghe, PhD, director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. It is currently in preclinical development with a plan to begin clinical testing in humans later this year. Mason Freeman, MD, director and founder of the MGH Translational Research Center is leading the efforts to develop the clinical studies intended to establish safety and efficacy of the experimental vaccine.
The AAVCOVID Vaccine Program is a unique, gene-based vaccine strategy that uses adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector, a clinically established gene transfer technology leveraging the properties of a harmless viral carrier. AAV is used to deliver genetic sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike antigen so the body can develop an immune response to the coronavirus. AAV technology has been used extensively in the field of gene therapy, and substantial experience and capacity exists for manufacturing and clinical use of AAV-based medicines. Two AAV-based drugs have been approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration in recent years.
While several types of COVID-19 vaccines are in development worldwide, AAV technology offers several distinct advantages, including its adaptability and potential to elicit a beneficial immune response in people. In addition, other versions of AAV technology have been tested in the clinic for more than two decades with a favorable safety record.