San Diego researchers developing new COVID vaccine


SAN DIEGO — A new coronavirus vaccine is on the horizon and it’s being developed in San Diego at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology.

It’s part of a collaborative project with researchers in Boston. La Jolla researchers have just been given a $2.6 million dollar grant to advance the vaccine research.

“It’s remarkable that science was able to make and mobilize vaccines this quickly. This was the fastest that science has ever done that, but the first thing out of the starting gates might not be the best thing that we come up with long-term,” said Dr. Erica Ollman Saphire, president and professor at the La Jolla institute.

Dr. Saphire and her team are working collaboratively to develop a new and improved “pan-coronavirus” vaccine that would target all types and variants of the virus.

“How do we build a vaccine that’s going to give us longer lasting more durable protection?” she asked. “How do we show the immune response the parts of these viruses that don’t change?” 

So far, they’ve answered a lot of those important questions. They’ve built a key component of the vaccine which aims to target a part of the virus that is unlikely to mutate, meaning the vaccine could recognize the virus whether it’s mutated or not.

“A vaccine is like a wanted poster — it shows a photograph of the criminal and that photograph has got to be really accurate. It’s high resolution, so you can immediately recognize that criminal. Your immune response has to know exactly what to target,” she explained.

And thanks to the many blood donations of San Diegans, the researchers are able to test how small samples of blood respond to the new vaccine in a massive microscope the institute has. 

Dr. Saphire said progress is looking good, but it’s too early to say when the vaccine might be available. The next phase will be clinical testing. 

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