By nature, COVID-19 vaccine development is different from previous projects — Dr. Sang-Hwan Seo, Research Scientist & Lab Manager at IVI, explains why:
Since a couple of months ago, signs have been posted outside of IVI’s biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) facility saying that COVID-19 pathogens are being analyzed in the negative pressure labs. Scientists in white lab coats bustle between labs busily engaged in COVID-19 projects.
“There were always new difficulties whenever we did a new project. But COVID-19 vaccine development is different in its nature,” says Dr. Sang-Hwan Seo, IVI’s Research Scientist & Lab Manager.
“The purpose and importance of COVID-19 vaccine development is very clear. We are working on a very short timeline but should be prepared to do it perfectly – the point of this project is creating accurate and clear results.”
BSL-3 researchers studying in BSL-3 lab at IVI, which is one of the largest BSL-3 labs in South Korea. Credit: IVI
For this COVID-19 project, the role of IVI’s Science unit is analyzing SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody titer in clinical samples. Dr. Jae-ouk Kim, Head of Molecular Immunology at IVI, and her Clinical Immunology lab team will analyze SARS-CoV-2-specific binding antibodies while Dr. Sang-Hwan Seo and four BSL-3 researchers will analyze SARS-CoV-2-specific neutralizing antibodies.
Dr. Sang-Hwan Seo, Research Scientist & Lab Manager at IVI, in his office. Credit: IVI
“COVID-19 vaccine development is different from previous vaccine development in many ways,” says Dr. Seo. “First of all, the speed from DNA sequencing until clinical trials was unprecedented.” Phase 1 clinical trials started in the U.S. in only two months since the SARS-CoV-2 virus was sequenced—the fastest in the history of vaccine development.
“The variety of vaccine platforms utilized in the development of COVID-19 vaccine is also a key feature of COVID-19.” Just to name a few, DNA and mRNA vaccines, recombinant virus vectors, and recombinant protein designed based on antigen structure are some of the vaccine platforms, according to Dr. Seo.
Inside IVI’s BSL-3 lab. Credit: IVI
Last but not least is global cooperation, which is always key for IVI. In this global pandemic, the initiative of global organizations in vaccine development proved to play a critical role. CEPI (Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) is leading in providing support to companies and research institutes to speed up processes. “CEPI, vaccine R&D institutes, and National Regulatory Authorities of each governments are all cooperating to develop a vaccine to fight against COVID-19,” emphasized Dr. Seo. He added his thoughts about how COVID-19 will become a game-changer:
“I believe that the swift speed, diverse vaccine platforms and global cooperation in COVID-19 vaccine development will become a new standard in the process of developing vaccines against emerging and re-emerging viruses”