WASHINGTON (AFP) — Imagine a Covid-19 vaccine that came as a pill: No needles, no medical professionals required to administer it, potentially delivered directly to people’s homes.
Israeli pharmaceutical Oramed is attempting to accomplish just that, and is poised to start its first clinical trial in early August, CEO Nadav Kidron told AFP in an interview.
“In order for the vaccine to really work well, we need as many people to take it as possible,” Kidron said.
By targeting multiple parts of the virus, including structures that mutate less, the Oravax vaccine could be more variant-proof, he added.
The company has applied to begin trials in multiple countries and expects to begin its first in Israel within weeks, pending approval from the health ministry.
Challenges for oral delivery
Despite many theoretical advantages, there have been few successful oral vaccines because the active ingredients tend not to survive the journey through the gastro-intestinal tract.
Exceptions include vaccines for diseases that are themselves transmitted through the mouth and digestive system — for example there is an effective oral polio vaccine.
Oramed, which was founded in 2006, believes it has overcome the technical hurdles by designing a capsule that survives the highly acidic environment of the gut.
It invented its technology for a previous product, an experimental oral form of insulin, the lifesaving drug required by diabetics that has until now been only administered by injection.
Developed with Nobel Prize winning biochemist Avram Hershko who is on Oramed’s scientific advisory board, the company’s capsule has a highly protective coating that makes it slow to degrade.