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Covid-19 vaccine capable of combating mutated viruses is undergoing a phase 1 clinical trial at Karolinska University Hospital

A new DNA-based vaccine against Covid-19 is now being tested for the first time on healthy participants at Karolinska University Hospital. The vaccine, developed at Karolinska Institutet, targets multiple parts of the virus, making it less vulnerable to mutated strains and potentially effective against new variants.
Soo Aleman, professor and senior consultant. Photo: Danish Saroee.

Protection against new variants

The ongoing phase 1 clinical trial includes 16 healthy adults, aged 18 to 65 years, who are being monitored at the Phase 1 unit of the Center for Clinical Cancer Studies in Huddinge, in collaboration with the Medical Unit for Infectious Diseases at Karolinska University Hospital. All participants received their third dose of mRNA vaccine no later than six months ago. Their health status and immune responses to the vaccine are being monitored for a period of three months, including weekly COVID testing.

– It is important that we test this type of new vaccine that can provide a broader immune response and potentially offer better protection against new variants of Covid-19, says Soo Aleman, professor and senior consultant at the Medical Unit for Infectious Diseases at Karolinska University Hospital.

The vaccine is administered using an electric pulse

The fact that the vaccine is based on DNA has its advantages and disadvantages. Unlike mRNA, DNA does not require strict storage at -40 degrees Celsius. However, after the DNA vaccine is injected, an electric pulse, known as electroporation, needs to be delivered to the patient immediately in order for the DNA to enter the cell nuclei.

Matti Sällberg, professor at Karolinska Institutet. Photo: Catarina Thepper.

– Within the OPENCORONA project, a special instrument has been developed for use during DNA injection. It is called an EPSgun and delivers a small electric pulse. The arm may twitch slightly, which can be felt, but it quickly subsides. The patients' experience of this is also recorded as an important part of the research, says Matti Sällberg, professor at Karolinska Institutet.

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