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Updated 14 April 2021

Arab doctor leads team developing vaccine against all coronaviruses


LOS ANGELES: An Arab-led team of scientists at University of California Irvine (UCI) is developing an injection that by the end of the year could address all forms of coronavirus. 

“It’s a vaccine that is directed not only against SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19,” said Dr. Lbachir BenMohamed, director of cellular and molecular immunology at UCI. “But it is a vaccine that is targeting the previous outbreaks as well as the outbreaks that are going to come in the years to come.”

Where existing vaccines target spike proteins that are specific to a particular strain, BenMohamed’s team is targeting the proteins shared by all coronaviruses, including those that have not yet reached humans.

“Being Arabic from Maghreb, from Morocco, I am of course very proud that I represent the Arab world in this field of pan-coronavirus vaccine,” he said. “To my knowledge, I’m probably the only Arab who is developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine.”

Their work is being funded by Dr. Anthony Fauci’s branch of the National Institute of Health, and has so far prevented COVID-19 from replicating in and killing lab mice. Once completed, he hopes the vaccine would be administered like a flu shot. 

“I am hoping once we vaccinate people with this pan-coronavirus, the immunity would stay two years, three years, or four years or maybe more so that people will just get a shot every five years and they get protected from the next pandemic.”

After facing multiple outbreaks, including 2012’s MERS and the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. BenMohamed encourages the Arab world to stop importing vaccines and begin developing their own. 

“They have the resources to do it and they have people who are competent both inside and outside the Arab World,” Dr BenMohamed told us. “If they get together and get this institute of vaccinology and immunotherapy, they can be independent when it comes to developing vaccines and immunotherapy. And that is the message, and as an Arab I am here to help if they need my help on this area.”