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Rochester research lab developing oral COVID-19 vaccine

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Researchers are continuing to improve the COVID-19 vaccine. And soon, there may be a way to get it without rolling up your sleeve. A Rochester scientific research lab is working on a new way to get vaccine into bodies by developing an oral solution.

Vyriad typically studies viruses and uses the research to use viruses in the fight against cancer. In March of 2020, a new venture started for the team of researchers.

"When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was obvious to us that we could help," Vyriad CEO Dr. Stephen Russell said.

The team began developing a intramuscular vaccine, but saw disappointing results when it was tested.

"At that point there was Pfizer, Moderna, J and J...," he said. "They were all making leaps and bounds with their vaccines. And you couldn't afford to stumble. You had to be fast to go somewhere."

But, if at first you don't succeed; try, try again.

"We thought, well, if we can't win that race, we can still help and at least refigure our vaccine as an oral agent," Dr. Russell said.

After months and months of research, studying and testing, Vyriad developed a vaccine that's taken by mouth. It's a tablespoon of liquid that would be swished, gargled and ingested.

The drinkable dose is targeted towards people who have already been administered the traditional shot vaccine, or have been previously ill with COVID-19. The vaccine would act as a boost of immunity.

"We do know that everybody who gets vaccinated now, or who's recovered from the viral infection, while they do have immunity, it falls off over time," Dr. Russell said. "So, the waning immunity in people who have been vaccinate or infected means they are going to need boosters. What we are really thinking of is that it really will be developed as a booster."

It's a booster that is thought to be even more effective than the traditional immunization.

"If you think about it, the SARS virus comes in through the mouth or the nose and the first thing it encounters is the lining of those spaces," he added. "...The intramuscular vaccine may protect you, but you still may get the virus in the nose or mouth so you may be able to pass it on to other people."

The oral vaccine has not yet been tested on humans, but has proven to be effective on monkeys. The next step is to go into a phase one clinical trial.

Vyriad is working on the manufacturing process and is looking to partner with a bigger pharmaceutical company, preferably one that has already developed a vaccine, to get the process moving forward. If everything goes according to plan, the oral vaccine could be available to the public late this early or early next year.

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Beret Leone

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