June 26, 2020 / 1:19 PM / 14 days ago

Brazil university in talks to test Italian coronavirus vaccine

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The Federal University of Sao Paulo (Unifesp) is in talks to test a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by Italian researchers, the dean of the Brazilian university told Reuters.

An employee is seen at the Reference Center for Special Immunobiologicals (CRIE) of the Federal University of Sao Paulo (Unifesp) where the trials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine are conducted, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 24, 2020. Picture taken June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

With the world’s worst outbreak outside the United States, Brazil has become a key front in the global race for a vaccine, as vaccine clinical trials are likely to yield results faster in places where the virus is widespread.

“We are already in advanced discussions with Italy’s Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute,” Unifesp President Soraya Smaili said in an interview on Wednesday. “We expect to bring it here, the accord is already moving forward and we’ll be able to do a lot of studies with this vaccine.”

The Italian researchers want to conduct midstage trials and final Phase III studies involving thousands of subjects in Brazil, Smaili said.

Francesco Vaia, the chief medical officer at Lazzaro Spallanzani, said the institute had agreed to do Phase II and III trials in Sao Paulo, once it completes the first phase which is expected to start in Italy in the first half of July. The candidate vaccine is produced by Italy’s ReiThera, he said.

Over the weekend, Unifesp began clinical trials of a vaccine developed by Oxford University with support from AstraZeneca Plc. Brazil’s government is nearing an agreement to eventually produce that vaccine.

Unifesp is also working on early development of a Brazilian vaccine led by the University of Sao Paulo, a separate university with ties to the state government.

There are no approved vaccines to prevent infection by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The virus has infected more than 9.4 million people and killed nearly 500,000 worldwide, including more than 53,000 virus-related fatalities in Brazil.

Smaili said trial of the Oxford vaccine will involved 2,000 people in Sao Paulo, and preliminary results may be available within six months.

Sao Paulo research institute Butantan is set to begin trials next month of another potential vaccine, developed by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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