Finnish researchers developing nasal COVID-19 vaccine

March 8, 2021
Lynda Charters

Investigators at Rokote Laboratories Finland Ltd. say they selected the nasal route of delivery because the virus is transmitted through the airways, and they claim that nasal administration may induce a wider immune response than intramuscular administration.

Researchers at Rokote Laboratories Finland Ltd. are in the process of developing a nasal spray to beat the COVID-19 virus.

The nasal route of delivery was chosen, according to the researchers, because the virus is transmitted through the airways, and they claimed that nasal administration “seems to induce a wider immune response than intramuscular administration.”

The new vaccine uses gene transfer technology developed at the University of Eastern Finland and based on research performed at the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland.

This technology has already been called into play successfully to treat cardiovascular disease and cancer in several clinical trials.

“The vaccine uses a safe adenovirus carrier that contains a cloned DNA strand, which causes nasopharyngeal cells to produce the virus protein which, in turn, produces a response to the vaccine,” investigators said.

They pointed out that no SARS-CoV-2 virus is present in the vaccine. The vaccine has been tested and performed well in animal studies and testing in humans is expected to start in a few months in Finland.

“Vaccines injected intramuscularly produce IgG antibodies in the bloodstream, but nasal vaccines also produce an IgA response that protects mucous membranes,” Seppo Ylä-Herttuala, MD, PhD, academy professor from the University of Eastern Finland, said in a statement. “We assume that this can also prevent those who have received the vaccine from transmitting the virus.”

According to Kalle Saksela, MD, PhD, professor of virology, from the University of Helsinki, the new vaccine will be instrumental in protecting people from the new waves of infections caused by the variants that have been developing, because it already can combat the new South African, Brazilian, and United Kingdom strains.

“The vaccines currently in use provide a clearly lower protection against the South African variant, which will likely be the dominant virus in the next wave,” he sa

id in a statement. “Our vaccine already takes into account the most important variants, i.e., the South African, Brazilian and the UK one. There will certainly be a demand for this type of vaccine.”

The company will carry out the first clinical vaccine trials in Finland. Drs. Ylä-Herttuala, Saksela, Kari Alitalo, MD,from the University of Helsinki, and Pasi Kemppainen, MSc (Techn) are the founders and board members of Rokote Laboratories Finland Ltd. The University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland are also co-founders of and shareholders in the company.