Synthetic MERS Vaccine Works in Animal Tests

Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:INO), a company that develops deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) immunotherapies and vaccines, reported Wednesday that its DNA vaccine targeting the virulent Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) induced 100% protection from a live virus challenge in a preclinical study.


K. Muthumani et al., “A synthetic consensus anti-spike protein DNA vaccine induces protective immunity against Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in nonhuman primates”, Cell Metabolism, doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aac7462, 2015.

Currently, 40 people in Saudi Arabia are still being treated for MERS-CoV infections and three are in home isolation, according to the MOH.

He said there was also coordination with the Health Ministry to get updates on MERS and other diseases commonly shared by humans and animals such as rabies and brucellosis.

Dr. Hanan Balkhi of the Health Ministry’s department for infectious diseases said that of the 46 people infected at King Abdulaziz Medical City in the capital, Riyadh, 15 were medical staff. Another 20 people showing symptoms are currently being tested to see if they have contracted the virus, she added.

The fourth death was reported yesterday in a 68-year-old man from Abha, located in southwestern Saudi Arabia.

The others eight are all adults who range in age from 55 to 98.

A ministry statement Wednesday said about 1,115 cases have been registered nationwide.

University of Pennsylvania researchers gave the synthetic DNA vaccine to rhesus macaques six weeks before exposing them to the MERS virus, and found that all of them were fully protected. Collaborators include researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, the University of Washington, and the University of South Florida.

The recent 2015 outbreak in South Korea was of great concern as the infection spread from a single patient to infect more than 181 people, resulting in hospital closings, severe economic impact, and more than 30 deaths. In this preclinical study, our synthetic vaccine shows its capability to combat a disease for which there is no vaccine.

Neutralizing antibodies against MERS-CoV were also detected in two of three camels vaccinated in the present study.


“There is a clear need for development of MERS-CoV vaccines”, said Frieman. For their next step, the team will explore how to condense the 6-week time frame needed to build protection, and their goal is for the vaccine to be a candidate for use in camels and people.

East Alabama Medical Center