30 July 2020

Renegade scientists tap into unproven COVID vax

The Back Page

The race is on to create a COVID vaccine around the world, but some scientists have taken matters into their own hands…

I mean, why wait for rigorous clinical trials and FDA approval when you’re both clever (and stupid?) enough to whip up a DIY vaccine in the lab and put it up your nose?

A group of around 20 scientists (many who are connected with MIT and Harvard University) got together to fast-track their own home-grown COVID vaccine.

They call themselves the Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, or RADVAC, and they wear capes and have already distributed an unproven COVID vaccine to members and friends.

There’s no ethics approval for this off-the-book clinical trial and it falls into a “legal grey area”, according to MIT Technology Review.

The group distributes the ingredients to make the vaccine via mail and volunteers mix it up and self-administer by spraying it up their nose.

“I am not licking doorknobs,” Alex Hoekstra, a data analyst with training in molecular biology who took the experimental vaccine, told MIT Technology Review.

“But it’s an amazingly surreal experience knowing that I may have an immunity to this constant danger [and] that my continued existence through this pandemic will be a useful dataset. It lends a level of meaning and purpose.”

It’s a subunit vaccine containing peptide fragments of COVID-19, not too dissimilar to vaccines for hepatitis B and human papillomavirus. Although, it’s different in the sense that there’s no evidence that it works.

It’s not a crazy design for a vaccine. The subunit vaccine approach is being used by Novavax, a biotechnology company that won a $US1.6 billion contract as part of the US government’s Operation Warp Speed.

But The Back Page isn’t expecting a Nobel Prize to come out of this research any time soon. Not every scientist can achieve Barry Marshall maverick status. (He’s the Aussie scientist who swallowed H. pylori and figured out that it caused stomach ulcers….)

If you see something stupid, say something stupid… Send your experimental vaccines and Back Page tips to [email protected]

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