A BIOTECH firm has announced that it is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in the form of a pill.
IosBio - based in Sussex, England - has found a way to engineer a vaccine that doesn't require an injection, but can be orally administered instead, in a stunning revelation in the fight against coronavirus.
In collaboration with Californian firm ImmunityBio, the company is currently testing the technology in clinical trials.
Initial trials in monkeys have already shown success as the pill proved highly effective in immunising them from the virus.
A jab version has also been developed by IosBio and has advanced to phase two/three clinical trials.
The oral vaccine will undergo human trials in America this month, while ImmunityBio is seeking approval to commence trials in Britain too.
It will take months for the trials to be carried out and then approved by regulators – something far from guaranteed at this early stage.
If approved, however, it could radically transform the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Pills are far easier to transport, store and administer than jabs, and so the vaccine rollout could become incredibly more efficient.
Wayne Channon, chief executive of IosBio, said: "With our capsule you wouldn’t need medical professionals to administer the vaccine, you could send this out on Amazon Prime and have everyone vaccinated by Saturday.”
The new technology is called Ora Pro. Pills are created to withstand 50C, enabling them to clear the stomach and remain intact long enough be absorbed directly into mucus membranes.
"You catch Covid in your mucosal cells", Mr Channon said.
"But with jabs you get injected into the arm which goes into the muscles and blood cells. Our tablets go straight into mucosal cells to elicit mucosal immunity so we hit the virus where it is.
"When you catch this virus you breathe it in or swallow it, and 80pc of your immune system cells are mucosal so we are addressing that directly. I think this will be a new paradigm in vaccination."
Meanwhile, ImmunityBio was granted exclusive rights to OraPro under the licensing agreement. Royalties will be awarded to IosBio based upon its global sales, should the vaccine be approved.
Mr Channon said: "The results from the non-human primate trial were outstanding for oral and I think oral is the right strategy.
"Patrick Soon-Shiong, the chief executive of ImmunityBio, called me and said he had woken up at 3am and thought, this should be an oral vaccine."
ImmunityBio's vaccine contains two different spike proteins, making it unique among its market competitors, according to Mr Channon.
He continued: "When you use both the chance of both mutating on the virus to a point where it is unrecognisable to the body is vanishingly small and you get a much longer T-cell response memory.”"
The technology was pioneered by Jeff Drew, IosBio's chief scientific officer.
"It was one of his pet projects we worked on and he persuaded a few of us to fund it", Mr Channon stressed.
IosBio is a private company with a tight-knit group of independent shareholders. Mr Channon, together with Mr Drew, and financier James Hudleston, own a controlling share of above 50% of the company.
It has raised £20 million in investment since its founding in 2005