Two South African universities have announced that a joint venture led by a German academic has resulted in a COVID-19 vaccine with promising" results, as it requires no cold chain storage like current vaccines. The Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in the Eastern Cape Province and the North-West University (NWU) in the province with the same name said in a joint statement that preclinical trials on a new COVID-19 vaccine candidate were well advanced and promising.
The trials, which are being conducted at the Pre-Clinical Drug Development Platform at the NWU, will continue over the following weeks. The DNA vaccine candidate was developed by Germany-based Prof Markus Depfenhart, who holds extraordinary appointments as a professor at both universities.
The statement said that DNA vaccines are relatively inexpensive and straightforward to manufacture, can be adjusted quickly to address mutations and offer a simple yet effective means of inducing broad-based immunity. Another advantage is that DNA vaccines, because they are stable at ambient temperature without requiring a cold chain for storage and shipping, are ideally suited for the hot and humid conditions on the African continent.
We express our special appreciation to Prof Depfenhart, who has had to lead this project from Hamburg, Germany, because of the extended Covid-travel restrictions. He has a big impact on our two universities. He is a driving force in bringing together a new Pan-African, multi-national platform around vaccines and epidemic responses in Africa, by Africa, for Africa," said Prof Awie Kotz, executive dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the NWU.
We can no longer afford to work in isolation from one another on the continent we need links and partnerships to grow and succeed," said Prof Rushiella Songca, vice-chancellor and principal of WSU. It is hoped that the promising results of this trial will not be limited to WSU and NWU but will carry significance for other African universities and the developing world as a whole, said Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, the Chairperson of the WSU Council.
"The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating to the world. For Africa and the developing world, inequalities, poverty, and deprivation have worsened. Unequal access to the vaccine has also highlighted these global inequities. Africa, then, finds itself, perhaps once again, having to rely on its own intellectual capital to navigate its way through the global crisis, Ngcukaitobi added.
The universities are expected to make available updated trial results over the next few weeks. The news of the new vaccine has come as members of the G-7 countries pledged greater support in providing vaccines to countries in Africa, where the pandemic is growing rapidly.