Initiated by the UAE - First online professional symposium with the participation of an Israeli, CEO of the MIGAL Institute, and other global experts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine
By Dana Elimelech
Upon the initiative of Dr. Nawal al-Kaabi, head of the Medical Committee for Treating Infectious Diseases in the UAE, the first online symposium was convened with the participation of an Israeli, David Zigdon, CEO of the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute, along with representatives from the United States, Russia and Jordan. The symposium was held in order to promote international development and regulations for the treatment of COVID-19. The online meeting was moderated by Dr. Ziad Yagoub Najjar, a public health expert from Jordan.
David Zigdon, CEO of the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute in Kiryat Shmona, greeted the meeting’s participants in both English and Arabic and welcomed the crucial cooperation in treating the novel coronavirus. Zigdon also noted the location of the institute, which is nearby Israel’s border with Lebanon. He reviewed the studies and research projects undertaken by the MIGAL Institute in various scientific fields, i.e. plant science, water treatment, the laboratory for innovation in fruit storage, the laboratory for immunology, classified R&D projects, microbiological research, and more.
Additionally, Zigdon spoke about the research carried out by MIGAL in finding a COVID-19 vaccine, which originated more than four years ago with the successful development of a vaccine against a coronavirus strain found in birds. This vaccine was discovered before the novel coronavirus outbreak and designed the method for its treatment. MIGAL’s subsidiary MigVax is working to develop and commercialize the current vaccine. According to Zigdon, trial results are encouraging and show a significant reduction in the ability of the virus to spread in infected animals. He stated that the vaccine should activate the three types of immunity in humans: innate, adaptive, and passive. Zigdon also noted that the future vaccine, which the MIGAL Institute is slated to release, will be delivered orally and not via injection, due to the need for a comprehensive global vaccination campaign. Producing an orally administered vaccine will be significantly cheaper. In this way, it will be possible to vaccinate populations in developing nations that do not have access to organized health clinics.
Dr. Jill Horowitz, Executive Director of Strategic Operations in the Immunology Laboratory at the Rockefeller University in New York City, presented the use of monoclonal antibodies for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19 on the basis of the method of the HIV vaccine. This formed the basis of the coronavirus research.
Dr. Nawal al-Kaabi, head of the Medical Committee for Treating Infectious Diseases in the UAE, described the phase 3 clinical trial research currently being conducted in his country.
Dr. Andrew Elnatan, Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, described the novel coronavirus vaccines currently in clinical trials and the course of human trials.
Dr. Melita Vujnovic, the WHO Representative to the Russian Federation, stated in the online meeting that the 194 member nations of the WHO are shaping the agenda of global research on various public health issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic. The approach is based on learning working methods and organizational strategies that have proven to be effective and then sharing these experiences. This activity strengthens the research and researchers, equipping them with relevant information, helping them operate according to regulations, and engaging in monitoring for the benefit of fair and equitable research. According to Dr. Vujnovic, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, developed countries have a responsibility to developing countries that lack the means and resources for research and development. Developing countries will also receive appropriate treatment to cure and prevent the virus’s outbreak. She highlighted that the role of the WHO is to act immediately in the face of a global health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and to encourage international cooperation to safeguard global public health.