An innovative vaccine developed by Turkish scientists against the coronavirus is due to begin phase 2 trials, Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank announced on Friday. Varank, himself a volunteer in the vaccine study, said at least 480 new volunteers would be needed for the next phase of the virus-like particle vaccine (VLP).
The jab was developed as part of the COVID-19 Turkey Platform, an initiative of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) that includes vaccine and medical studies against the deadly disease.
The VLP vaccine is being developed by a research team led by Professor Mayda Gürsel and her husband Ihsan Gürsel, two renowned scientists from the Middle East Technical University (METU) and Bilkent University in the capital, Ankara. In the first phase of the study, 38 volunteers were injected with shocks. Scientists say the vaccine was designed to be effective against both the original coronavirus that emerged in China’s Wuhan and its British variant, which has been used in most of the world, including Turkey. Phase 3 trials with more than 10,000 volunteers in dozens of centers across the country are expected to be conducted if Phase II is successful.
The vaccine is unique in Turkey, where scientists race against time to develop inactive vaccines, adenoviruses, and other types of vaccines against coronaviruses. It was the fourth vaccine to be included on a World Health Organization (WHO) list of vaccine candidates on March 30. The VLP vaccine mimics the coronavirus so as not to cause infection. There are currently four VLP vaccine candidates worldwide. According to scientists, the Turkish shock differs from others in the use of the virus’ four structural proteins as a vaccine antigen.
Turkey has given more than 28 million vaccine doses to its citizens since January 2021 and currently relies on China’s CoronaVac and a Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The aim is also to import the Russian vaccine Sputnik V soon. Elsewhere, scientists are working on seven vaccine candidates across the country, while a sting developed by Erciyes University, an inactive vaccine, appears to be nearing completion of its studies. Authorities previously announced that a locally made vaccine would be available by the end of 2021.