Auburn Veterinary Medicine begins testing for COVID-19 vaccine candidates

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AUBURN, Ala. – Dr. Constantinos Kyriakis, an Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine assistant professor, will be beginning the testing of a new vaccine candidate that could offer protection against COVID-19 and assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19.  

He is working with Professor Ted Ross, director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at the University of Georgia.  Ross’ research team is designing and generating multiple vaccine candidates as part of global efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kyriakis and a team of Auburn veterinary medicine researchers will test the vaccine candidate’s ability to trigger an immune response in swine, when used alone or in combination with other ingredients and through using different doses.  

These additional ingredients, called adjuvants, are often used in vaccines to help the body create a greater immune response. Identifying the correct combination is vital to the effectiveness of any vaccine. 

 He has earned both a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and doctorate in virology. Before, Kyriakis’ research has been primarily focused on influenza viruses and novel vaccine technologies for more than a decade. Through his previous work at the Center for Vaccines and Immunology, he studied immune responses to influenza infection and vaccination in various animal models. 

 “Mass vaccinations will help build what is known as ‘herd immunity,’ the cornerstone of infectious disease control,” said Kyriakis. “This will not only protect individuals from SARS-CoV-2 infection and reduce virus spread, but it will protect the entire community and, importantly, high risk groups such as the elderly and people with preexisting health conditions.” 

He knows that developing and deploying a safe and efficient vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19, is paramount to saving lives, however it poses a major challenge for the scientific community. This is because an effective and approved coronavirus vaccines do not currently exist for humans. In addition, only limited data is available from the experimental vaccines designed to protect against the SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, the two zoonotic coronaviruses.  

“Using reliable animal models allows us to identify target antigens, optimize our vaccine dose and formulation, and select the most promising vaccine candidates for human clinical trials,” said Kyriakis. “These steps are critical in identifying safe, effective vaccines and moving them into production as quickly as possible.” 

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