London press release:
The first COVID-19 stockpile of vaccines for diseases, including Hib and pneumococcal meningitis and pneumonia, has been shipped into space in a space-bound, sealed cartridge. This British-developed vaccine is ready to deploy on a global scale, and will be of crucial importance to tackling common childhood diseases.
A specially manufactured and stored, but protected space-bound, protective vaccine cartridge containing COVID-19, has now been sent from London to the European Space Agency. It contains the anti-parasitic protective Hib vaccine (CoVEN-19) which is currently being used to train UK teams in developing development of the vaccine and simulation.
The COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the University of Birmingham and manufactured by AOMS Research, has been manufactured into container-tight, safety-resistant space-bound cartridge and is meant to be used with the HIB vaccine in low-cost vaccines being developed for use in space programmes.
The COVID-19 vaccine is a type of a fast-terminating DNA vaccine, meaning that it can be coated to protect infants against a wide range of complex parasitic diseases and bacterial infections. It is manufactured at the ARC Cholera Centre and delivered directly into the body, replicating in the same way as the standard Hib protective vaccines are packaged into safety-tested zipped-and-sealed vaccine vials.
Professor James Sarton, Chair of Immunisation and Vaccines at the UK Defence and Science Advisory Councils on Virology (DSACV), said: “For our therapeutic vaccine to become effective in space, it must be immunological – meaning it stimulates the body’s immune system to recognise and destroy the invading microbe. This is why all vaccines, both therapeutic and for vaccines that have been obtained from space, must contain components of a human immune system cytokine called interferon-gamma (IFg). The active substances that constitute this IFg make them safe and therapeutic and protect the vaccine from space contamination. We have developed the intellectual property that enables us to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine, and so this ensures that it does not contaminate the space where it is used. This is one of the exciting aspects of cosmonaut working space, a place where innovative discoveries can be made.”
From the co-developed centre in Birmingham, the COVID-19 vaccine will be given to infants from five days after birth to develop immunity to three of the most common causes of vaccine-preventable disease in children. The current analysis shows that the vaccine is highly effective in protecting infantile and young children from pneumococcal meningitis and pneumonia, and our results on the Hib vaccine in infants also indicate excellent protection. Importantly, COVID-19 also reduces the need for immunisation of all future generations, since the vaccine is incredibly cheap and therefore highly accessible to poorer countries.
Professor Jeremy Pearce, Head of Immunisation at the University of Birmingham, said: “The delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine to ESA is the culmination of over a decade of collaborative research between university and industry. We have overcome the crucial next hurdle of making effective vaccines for space-borne treatments. I am confident that this will be an important step towards improving the health of those in the poorest countries who often suffer the most from preventable diseases.”
The British research team and AOMS Research are today also announcing a wide range of approaches to help developing countries access and manage infant vaccines such as COVID-19 for use in space flights. The new vaccines containment system, which is designed to protect the vaccines contained within, is designed to specifically fit the shipping container, and therefore cost-effectively provide immunotherapeutic vaccine components for vaccine delivery to the ISS, but can be easily adapted for use in space or back on Earth.