In January 2020, when Chinese scientists released the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, hundreds of laboratories around the world began the race for an effective vaccine.
The German-American conglomerate Pfizer / BioNTech and the Boston-based company Moderna were the first to receive the go-ahead for their formulas, a green light that AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines also received in Europe.
But already having four vaccines has not stopped the rest of the coronavirus vaccine development projects around the world as Covid jab campaigns could continue in the coming months or even years.
In Spain, three home-developed vaccines will see the light of day, probably, in 2022.
Less than half of the world's population has received the full regimen so far, and the threat of new variants that escape the vaccines remains present; meanwhile the duration of protection provided by the jabs is still in the air.
Currently, the most advanced project in Spain is from the private Catalan company, Hidra. On 27 August the company began phase I / II human trials of its formula with six jabs at the Clínic de Barcelona and Josep Trueta de Gerona hospitals. This was the first clinical trial authorised by the Spanish Medicines Agency (Aemps). Among the advantages of this vaccine is its storage temperature, between 2 and 8 degrees, which facilitates its logistics. The company expects to produce 400 million doses during 2022 and could even reach 1.2 billion in 2023.
Two other projects are also in pipeline. The first of these is the one being developed by the team led by Luis Enjuanes, director of the coronavirus group at the National Centre for Biotechnology-CSIC.
It is based on the already known messenger RNA technology, although with modifications: so that it does not degrade and can penetrate cells, so that an "amplification" occurs, which implies that a booster dose is not necessary, according to the CSIC.
In addition, this vaccine will be intranasal (administered through the nose), "very powerful", it will protect against infection and transmission of the virus (a quality that current RNA vaccines do not have) and, in principle, will stop any variant.
The other Spanish vaccine project has also been developed at the CSIC. It is led by the virologist Mariano Esteban, head of the Poxvirus and Vaccine Group, and uses a highly attenuated virus with a membranous covering around a protein structure. Inside it carries a DNA molecule larger than that of the adenovirus and in this molecule, which penetrates more easily into cells, the fragment that will produce the coronavirus protein S is also introduced. Vaccinia virus (used in the smallpox vaccine) is used as a vehicle.
Esteban's vaccine, however, has run into a setback. This summer, Aemps asked for more data from the preclinical trials before giving its permission to start testing in phases I / II. "But everything is ready to begin experiments in humans," explained the researcher. As with the Enjuanes vaccine, the forecasts for it to be administered in humans point to 2022.