Canadian Manufacturing

INRS researchers helping to create a vaccine against COVID-19 with Glycovax Pharma Français

The researchers will evaluate the feasibility of a vaccine strategy targeting carbohydrate molecules located on the surface of the COVID-19 Spike protein.

June 17, 2020  by CM Staff

Professor Nicolas Doucet, researcher and expert in structural biology at the INRS (CNW Group/Institut National de la recherche scientifique (INRS))

LAVAL, QC — Professors Nicolas Doucet and Yves St-Pierre of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), a research institute, are contributing to the race for a vaccine against COVID-19.

In partnership with Glycovax Pharma — a biopharmaceutical company focused on glycochemistry, glycobiology, immunology and nanotechnology — the two researchers will evaluate the feasibility of a vaccine strategy targeting carbohydrate molecules located on the surface of the coronavirus Spike protein.

“It was a fortunate coincidence that the carbohydrate molecules on which the biopharmaceutical company has been working on since 2017 are present on the Spike protein. Glycovax Pharma is one step ahead because antibody development is already ongoing,” said Doucet in a prepared statement.

Even if antibodies are currently being synthesized, two key issues need to be considered. First, the antibodies must be able to reach the targeted carbohydrates on the Spike protein. Researchers need to ensure that these carbohydrate molecules are present on the Spike protein at all times, regardless of the type of infected cells in the host.

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“For instance, SARS-CoV-2 is known to attack the respiratory system, so if the lung cells do not attach the proper carbohydrates of interest to the coronavirus Spike protein after infection, the strategy may not be effective,” Doucet cautioned.

“These are essential steps in validating a vaccine approach. Our results will allow Glycovax Pharma to prioritize certain antibodies or to put forward other complementary approaches,” he says.

The research project in partnership with Glycovax Pharma is funded by a Mitacs Accelerate grant that will support the work of postdoctoral fellow Yossef López de los Santos over the next year.

“This partnership with INRS experts in structural and cellular biology represents an important contribution in the pursuit of our work. Their contribution will help us take essential steps in the development of a new vaccine to counter COVID-19, ” said Dany Valiquette, president of Glycovax, in a statement.