An oral COVID vaccine is nearly ready, will it help end the pandemic?

August 11, 2021


Israeli pharmaceutical Oramed started its first clinical trial of oral COVID-19 vaccine in early August, CEO Nadav Kidron told AFP in an interview. Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc. is a pharmaceutical company founded in 2006, engaged in the research and development of oral protein drug delivery technology that is based on more than 30 years of research by scientists at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center.

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The company believes, it has overcome the technical hurdles by designing a capsule that survives the highly acidic environment of the gut. The Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Avram Hershko is also a member of Oramed’s scientific advisory board. This technology was used for making an oral form of insulin for diabetics. The company’s capsule has a highly protective coating. It also releases protease inhibitors that stop enzymes in the gut from breaking down the insulin, and an absorption enhancer to help the insulin absorb in the blood.

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Few oral vaccines are in widespread use owing to the hostile nature of the digestive tract such as polio, cholera, rotavirus, and typhoid—often feature more robust pathogens capable of withstanding the conditions.

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Oramed has launched a new majority-owned company called Oravax. The company’s scientists have designed synthetic coronavirus-like particles oral vaccine. These mimic three key structures of the Coronavirus: the spike protein, the envelope protein, and the membrane protein. Pfizer or AstraZeneca, are based on the spike protein alone, making them less protective over time as the spike protein of the coronavirus mutates.
By targeting multiple parts of the virus, including structures that mutate less, the Oravax vaccine could be more variant-proof, Kidron said.

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With just 15 percent of the world’s population fully vaccinated, the global fight to end the pandemic is far from over. Oral vaccines are particularly attractive for the developing world because they reduce the logistical burden of immunization campaigns, said Kidron. The vaccine pill could become especially attractive if ongoing boosters are required. The oral vaccine would help eliminate many of the barriers hindering widespread immunization around the world. They are easier to transport and store and are unlikely to require the ultracold temperatures as Pfizer and Moderna vaccines needed.

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