Covid-19: Israel claims ‘excellent vaccine in hand’; set to start human trials

By: |
August 6, 2020 7:32 PM

Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited the Israel Institute of Biological Research where he met with its director Prof Shmuel Shapira to receive an update on the progress on work to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

In May, Israel announced that IIBR, mandated to develop a vaccine for Covid, had made a “significant breakthrough” by wrapping up the development phase of the antibody and moving to patent and mass produce the potential treatment. (Reuters)

Israel on Thursday claimed that it already has in hand an “excellent” vaccine against the coronavirus pandemic, but it has to go through regulatory processes which are set to begin with human trials following the autumn holidays.
Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited the Israel Institute of Biological Research (IIBR) where he met with its director Prof Shmuel Shapira to receive an update on the progress on work to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

“There is an excellent vaccine, there are regulatory processes that the vaccine needs to go through based on the timetable that you (Alternate PM and Defence Minister Benny Gantz) mentioned. We will start safety and efficacy trials after the autumn holidays, but the product is in hand,” Prof Shapira, Director of IIBR, which works under the joint supervision of the Ministry of Defence and the PMO, was quoted in a press statement as saying.

During the visit, Gantz was accompanied by the minister’s aide on tackling the coronavirus pandemic. They were briefed on the IIBR’s progress in developing a vaccine that can produce antibodies against the coronavirus. Gantz instructed the institute to begin human trials after the autumn holidays, a press statement from the Defence Minister’s spokesperson’s unit said.

“We need to begin human trials following the autumn holidays. I would like to express my appreciation, firstly, to all of you: the people at the Ministry of Defense and at the Institute, who are doing fantastic work. All of the successful preliminary trials offer very significant news and a great deal of hope,” Gantz said.

“The next phase, as we’ve determined, is to start trials in humans after the autumn holidays, in coordination with the Ministry of Health and in line with medical safety protocol, the Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defence added.

Applauding the efforts of IIBR, Gantz said that “like the elite forces in the IDF (Israel Defence Forces), you all are the State of Israel’s elite unit within the Ministry of Defence for all things vaccine-related. I am at your service and want to be involved in every significant discussion”.

Shapira thanked the minister, the PMO and the Ministry of health for their support stressing, “I’m proud of what we’ve got in hand”. The release did not specify as to when the vaccine would be ready for use. In May, Israel announced that IIBR, mandated to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus COVID-19, had made a “significant breakthrough” by wrapping up the development phase of the antibody and moving to patent and mass produce the potential treatment.

Earlier in March this year, Israeli daily Ha’aretz, quoting medical sources, reported that scientists at the institute had made a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological mechanism and qualities of the virus, including better diagnostic capability, production of antibodies for those who already have the virus and development of a vaccine.

IIBR was established in 1952 as part of the Israel Defence Forces’ Science Corps, and later became a civilian organisation. It is technically under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s Office, but works in close communication with the Defence Ministry. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have ordered the institute to devote resources to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 on February 1. There has been intensive work, including by leading experts, to develop the vaccine since then.

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