CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Dr. Steven Zeichner and others at the University of Virginia have been studying when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“We thought if we have these technologies that we think can be beneficial, we really should re-tool and re-orient and see if we can do something,” Zeichner told News 3.
He and others across UVA and Virginia Tech have been working on a new COVID-19 vaccine.
“We wanted to come up with a vaccine that would be appropriate for the whole world,” he said.
Their result is a low-cost shot that could give you protection against existing and future strains of COVID-19 and other coronaviruses.
His team took an unconventional path towards making their vaccine.
“Most of the vaccines that are out there take the entire spike protein,” Zeichner said. “What we wanted to do was to take just take a piece of that spike that seems to be completely conserved among all coronaviruses.”
“We engineered our bacteria to make that one little piece of the virus that doesn't vary at all and put that on the surface of the bacteria, and that became our vaccine,” Zeichner added.
Along with their COVID-19 vaccine, they made a second one for another coronavirus.
They immunized pigs with both, and then challenged the animals with live infection.
Zeichner told News 3 the results are promising.
“What we found was that both of those vaccines protected the pigs against disease,” he said.
Zeichner and News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light believe there are potential long-term benefits.
“When we make vaccines, we want it to work across the spectrum, so that it works with different coronaviruses,” Light said.
“We're getting more and more and more variants,” Zeichner said. “The object of this project is to not play catch-up.”
With more testing expected ahead, Zeichner is hopeful for the future.
"We think it's very important - not really just even from a humanitarian point of view, but from a purely selfish point of view to control the virus around the world,” Zeichner said.