US company hopeful of UK trials for COVID-19 vaccine

Senior Clinical Research Nurse Ajithkumar Sukumaran prepares the COVID 19 vaccine to administer to a volunteer, at a clinic in London. (AP/File)
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Updated 28 September 2020

US company hopeful of UK trials for COVID-19 vaccine

  • Codagenix has pioneered fresh approach based on technology first discovered in 1950s
  • Permission could be granted by end of year

LONDON: An experiment has been proposed to take place in the UK that will see volunteers infected with a weakened form of COVID-19 in the hope that it could act as an effective vaccine.

The trial, the brainchild of US biotech company Codagenix, may receive permission to begin before the end of the year.

The theory behind the vaccine using an “attenuated” virus, engineered in a laboratory, stems from how COVID-19 uses pieces of genetic code, called codons, normally used by human cells to identify amino acids in order to build proteins, to trick the cells into helping the virus replicate inside a host.

Human cells cannot always efficiently identify codons, making it harder for the immune system to spot those used by COVID-19. 

Codagenix’s vaccine prototype will act in a similar fashion to the original COVID-19 virus, but will replicate at about a thousandth of the rate, which the company believes will help train the immune system to recognize the real thing when confronted with it, and trigger a broader immune response than through other vaccines. 

“We recode a portion of the virus’s genome so that it’s slowly translated by the human host,” said Codagenix CEO Robert Coleman.

The technique was first used in the 1950s by the scientist Albert Sabin, who used it to eventually develop the oral polio vaccine.

Codagenix believes that its version could end up being more effective, and more cost efficient, than other prototype vaccines currently in advanced trial stages worldwide, including the one being worked on by scientists at Oxford University in partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Codagenix has already held early-stage trials of a flu vaccine using the technique in humans without serious side-effects, and has partnered with the Serum Institute of India, among the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, to produce it should it prove a success.

Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

Updated 22 October 2020

Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

  • Abu Dhabi’s Al-Ma’arid Street renamed President Joko Widodo Street

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday said it was “an honor” for him and his country that a street in the UAE capital had been named after him.

Al-Ma’arid Street, one of Abu Dhabi’s key roads, was on Monday renamed President Joko Widodo Street during a ceremony that coincided with the first anniversary of the Indonesian leader’s inauguration for a second term in office.

Writing on social media, Widodo said: “It is a recognition and an honor, not only for me, but for Indonesia.” He also expressed hope that the two countries’ relations would be “stronger, mutually strengthening, and beneficial for the people of the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s ambassador to the UAE, Husin Bagis, told Arab News: “The initiative to rename the street after President Joko Widodo came from His Highness (Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan), who also presided over the street renaming ceremony on the spot.”

The envoy said that the street was near to the future location of the Indonesian Embassy compound, which was currently under construction.

According to UAE news agency WAM, the crown prince has also directed officials to build a mosque named after Widodo, in Abu Dhabi’s Diplomatic Area, in recognition of the Indonesian president’s close friendship with the UAE and his efforts to strengthen the relationship.

Indonesia-UAE relations have grown closer since Widodo’s visit to Abu Dhabi in January, during which he secured investment projects worth $22.9 billion in what has officially been described as the biggest trade deal in the country’s history. The visit was to reciprocate the crown prince’s trip to Indonesia in July 2019.

Recent cooperation agreements between the two countries have included plans for the construction of a mosque on a plot of land in Widodo’s hometown of Solo in Central Java.

The mosque will be a replica of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and serve as an Islamic center offering training for clerics. A groundbreaking ceremony is slated to take place in December.

Widodo is the latest Indonesian leader to be celebrated through an honorific street name in a foreign country. In Rabat, Morocco’s capital, Avenue Sukarno was named after Indonesia’s first president, while Mohammed Hatta Street in Haarlem, the Netherlands, recognizes the Southeast Asian country’s first vice president. Sukarno and Hatta are considered the fathers of Indonesia’s independence.

The name of the country’s third president, B. J. Habibie, appears on a bridge in Dili, the capital of East Timor, in honor of his decision to hold a referendum there which allowed East Timor to secede from Indonesia.