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Montreal researcher developing nanoparticle-based COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Denis Archambault is working to combat COVID-19 with a novel nanovaccine.
By: Stewart Wiseman
July 01, 2020
Photo: Martin Chamberland / La Presse

A team of Montreal researchers is studying the potential of a COVID-19 nanovaccine in fighting the pandemic. Led by Dr. Denis Archambault of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), the group received a grant of just over $620,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to develop a "rapid research intervention against COVID-19." Nanovaccines are emerging as a novel approach to vaccination, and involve inoculating a patient with a nanoparticle "skeleton" attached to a protein, which induces both humoral and cell-mediated immune responses. Dr. Archambault's team is studying the potential of a nanovaccine which combines the S protein of the COVID-19 virus with a nanoparticle skeleton. The nanoparticle will serve as a vehicle to bring the coronavirus protein to immune cells in order to develop defenses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. “We know that our nanoparticle, in addition to delivering the S protein, stimulates elements associated with the immune response," said Dr. Archambault. "In addition, we will work on the engineering of the S protein to make it even more immunogenic."

Dr. Denis Archambault has studied animal viruses for over 25 years, and previously developed a nanovaccine against avian influenza, a disease that affects chickens in particular. Dr. Archambault is appropriating the knowledge from the successful avian influenza nanovaccine to develop one for COVID-19, by replacing the avian influenza protein on the nanoparticle he previously developed with one from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Dr. Archambault notes that the deadline set by the CIHR is tight: the group must demonstrate the validity of the new vaccine on animals within twelve months. The grant money will be shared with Winnipeg's National Microbiology Laboratory for the animal trial stage of the nanovaccine development. "We would obviously like to develop our vaccine from A to Z," says Denis Archambault. "But if we contribute in any way, however small, and others use our ideas to go further, personally, I will be very happy."

Source: La Presse

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