Western University researchers begin work on developing a COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON, Ont. — A team of Western University researchers has begun work on creating a vaccine for the devastating novel coronavirus.

University officials say experts in virology, microbiology, vaccinology, bioinformatics and immunology have united in a bid to develop and test a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

They also hope to create a “vaccine bank” of several ready-made vaccines that could be used if another strain sparks a new coronavirus outbreak.

The team is building off of work begun by Chil-Yong Kang, a professor emeritus at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry who has been working on a vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

MERS is caused by a class of coronavirus similar to the virus that causes COVID-19.

The work is backed by $998,840 in funding announced Thursday from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. It is one of 96 projects funded across the country.

“MERS-CoV is highly related to this new virus, so it is possible to adapt that vaccine strategy quite rapidly for SARS-CoV-2,” Eric Arts, a professor at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, said in a release.

“With the technology we have today, we can also introduce all the genetic diversity that exists for these coronaviruses in bats and other species, and create thousands of ‘seed’ vaccines.”

Scientists hope that the next time an outbreak occurs, it would be possible to identify which strain is circulating early on and immediately start producing a vaccine from the vaccine bank.

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