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April 20, 2020 11:38 am

Tel Aviv University Professor Granted US Patent for Coronavirus Vaccine Design

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Tel Aviv University. Photo: Ido Perelmutter via Wikimedia Commons.

A professor at Tel Aviv University (TAU) has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for his innovative vaccine design for the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, TAU announced on Sunday. 

Prof. Jonathan Gershoni of the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology at TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences created a vaccine that “targets the novel coronavirus’s Achilles’ heel, its Receptor Binding Motif (RBM), a critical structure that enables the virus to bind to and infect a target cell,” according to TAU.

Gershoni explained that the vaccine would reconstruct the coronavirus’s RBM, a small feature of its “spike” protein. This specific protein is a major surface protein that the virus uses to bind to a receptor, which is another protein that provides a pathway to a human cell.

TAU said, “After the spike protein binds to the human cell receptor, the viral membrane fuses with the human cell membrane, allowing the genome of the virus to enter human cells and begin infection.”

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Gershoni’s team is said to have completed the initial steps toward reconstituting the new SARS-CoV-2’s RBM. The reconstitution of the new RBM and its use as a basis for a new vaccine is covered by an additional pending patent application to the USPTO. 

“Now that we have received serum samples we should be able to isolate RBM-based vaccine candidates in the next month or two,” Prof. Gershoni said. “The discovery and production of a functional RBM for the new coronavirus is fundamental and critical for the production of the vaccine we propose. Our successful isolation and reconstitution of such a functional RBM will allow the industry to incorporate it into a vaccine, which will be produced by a pharmaceutical company. Development of such an RBM-based vaccine should take months and then would need to be tested in Phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials which would then take up to a year.” 

Gershoni and his team have been working on coronaviruses for the last 15 years and expect to have a reconstituted RBM soon that could be the basis for a new vaccine, which could be ready for use within a year to a year and a half.

The RBM, a highly-complex three dimensional structure, is 50 amino acids long and reconstructing its structure is very challenging but would be an extremely effective basis of a vaccine, he noted. 

“The smaller the target and the focus of the attack, the greater the effectiveness of the vaccine,” Gershoni said. “The virus takes far-reaching measures to hide its RBM from the human immune system, but the best way to ‘win the war’ is to develop a vaccine that specifically targets the virus’s RBM.”

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