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Qatar’s Sidra hospital joins international efforts to develop COVID-19 vaccine


Sidra Medicine researchers announced their contribution to support the development of the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine.

Sidra Medicine, a Qatar Foundation [QF] entity, has announced a collaboration with US-based ivy league universities in the race to research and develop the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The scale of the pandemic has meant that over 160 COVID-19 vaccines are currently being developed worldwide, in the hopes that the more candidates being tested, the higher the likelihood of finding a vaccine that is both safe and effective,” says Dr. Ussama M. Abdel-Motal, staff scientist from Sidra Medicine’s Human Genetics Department.

Dr. Ussama M. Abdel-Motal. Source: Sidra Medicine

Led by Dr. Abdel-Motal, members of the QF entity are working with researchers from Harvard and Tulane universities to create a humanised mouse model with the ability to mimic immunological responses developed by human patients. 

“We are working on generating human anti-COVID-19 antibodies and vaccines,” says Professor Wayne Marasco from Harvard Medical School. “Importantly, the use of the anti-Gal to boost the antibody response to SARS-coV2 spike protein may greatly aid in developing and maintaining a high-level, protective response.”

The use of the mouse model has been showing more promising results as the research process continues, scientists said.

Read also: COVID-19 vaccine to be available in Qatar ‘by early 2021’ 

According to Dr. Abdel-Motal’s previous research, vaccines have shown that carbohydrate molecules (alpha-gal epitopes) generate protective antibody responses that destroy virus-infected cells. The strong interaction between the carbohydrate molecules and a naturally discharged, unique protein (Gal antibody) were behind the effectiveness of such vaccines.

“Once the uniquely designed COVID-19 vaccine is injected in the new humanised mouse model, the secreted human Gal antibodies in the mice interact strongly with the vaccine and generate antibodies that fight and protect from the COVID-19 virus,” says Dr. Abdel-Motal.

Read also: Spread of COVID-19 in closed-space gyms causes panic

While Sidra Hospital does not treat COVID-19 patients, its researchers have been working on finding the most effective solution to treat the pandemic.

Dr. Khalid Fakhro. Source: Sidra Medicine

“At Sidra Medicine, we continue to collaborate with top global research institutions offering solutions that address the COVID-19 pandemic. This novel mouse model, for example, is unique in its ability to mimic the human immune system, making it a suitable model to understand how immunity develops towards this new coronavirus, and to help develop a vaccine candidate in the future,” says Dr. Khalid Fakhro, Acting Chief Research Officer at Sidra Medicine.

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