Vaxart, Inc. ($VXRT) – a well-known clinical stage biotechnology company developing oral recombinant vaccines that are administered via tablets rather than injections – is breaking the news this morning. The COVID-19 vaccine candidate has shown encouraging results in preclinical research. Vaxart is now announcing a pre-publication of a manuscript on this matter named: “Preclinical Studies of a Recombinant Adenoviral Mucosal Vaccine to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection.”

What makes this study valuable?

The aim of the study was to assess the relative immunogenicity of four vaccine candidates expressing various combinations of the spike (S) and nucleocapsid (N) proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a standard mouse model. There were multiple vaccine candidates who had the potential to produce a strong immune response, but the study result showed that one vaccine in particular candidate contained the full length S and N proteins. The S protein is responsible for receptor binding, membrane fusion and tissue tropism, targeting full length S protein in combination with N protein may prevent future vaccination-driven escape due to the accumulation of mutations in the S protein. The incorporation of N protein into the candidate vaccine yields additional conserved T epitopes.

What findings emerged from the research?

An IgA response was induced in the lungs of the mice, which is seen as an indication of mucosal immune response. Remarkably, neutralizing antibodies have been observed in the lung at a very high percentage of the total antibody response. Immunization with the candidate vaccine expressing full-length S and N proteins induced IgG responses via a dose-dependent method. In addition, antigen-specific CD4 + and CD8 + T cells were induced at low and high doses. Vaccine administration had low levels of IL-4 production. In other words, it carries a small risk of vaccine-dependent disease progression.

What Vaxart mentions about this development

They are convinced that the data from the study suggests that the candidate vaccine is capable of inducing immunogenicity at three levels:

1. to induce potent serum neutralizing antibodies against the viral S protein
2. to elicit a mucosal immune response.
3. to induce T cell responses.

Thanks to the many studies, Vaxart wil try to prove that mucosal immunity can be a key factor in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Both mucosal IgA and mucosal T cells have been shown to contribute to sterilizing immunity in other respiratory diseases. It’s important to note that while systemic immunity is important for controlling the development of disease, pharmacists have suggested that mucosal immunity may be essential for blocking transmission. This can be a key element in further studies for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Vaxart will be participating in virtual investor conferences in September and that it is set to enter the Russell 3000® Index. Therefore, the development of the vaccine candidate comes at a good strategic time. Shares of the pharmaceutical company have sunk in recent weeks, despite it still hitting a massive premium to its early 2020 low of $0.35 per share. This morning, the news was quickly picked up by shareholders and analysts. The stock is up over 10% today, bringing its value to around $5.5 per share, making it a “hot” stock on several online trading platforms.

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By Omar