Dr. Seema Mishra, faculty of the Department of Biochemistry, School of Life Sciences, University of Hyderabad (UoH) has designed potential vaccine candidates which are called T cell epitopes believed to be working against all the structural and non-structural proteins of novel coronavirus-2(2019-nCoV) for experimental testing. The candidates of the vaccine are small coronaviral peptides, molecules that will be used by cells to trigger an immune response to destroy cells harbouring these viral peptides.
Dr. Seema Mishra has designed these potential epitopes in a way that can be used to vaccinate the entire population by using powerful immunoinformatics approaches with computational software.
Normally, a discovery of vaccine takes an elongated tenure of upto 15 years but the powerful computational tools helped in enlisting these vaccine candidates in a minimal time of about 10 days. A list of potential candidates, which are based on how much effect they will be used by human cells to stop the virus, has been generated. These coronaviral epitopes pose no cross-reactivity to human cells and hence the immune response will be against viral proteins and not human proteins as there are no matches in the human protein pool.
The study states that “that surface (spike) and membrane proteins of nCoV provide with very less number of promiscuous epitopes with high degree of unique epitopes across alleles. This shows that these proteins may be less immunogenic and the vaccination strategy using these proteins may not work at entire population level across continents.”
The results have been disseminated to the scientist community using the ChemRxiv preprint platform for urgent experimental essays.
These are the first such studies on nCoV vaccine design from India exploring whole coronaviral proteome across structural and non-structural proteins that make up the virus.
Still, right now the best defence to prevent nCoV infections is social distancing. Vaccination may take some time due to the need for further work on these candidate epitopes.