Researchers: Army Creates Single Vaccine Against All COVID, SARS Variants

Researchers: Army Creates Single Vaccine Against All COVID, SARS Variants army soldier gives shot to seated man (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

By Fran Beyer | Wednesday, 22 December 2021 12:17 PM

Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research expect to announce they have developed a vaccine effective against COVID-19 and all its variants — including omicron and previous SARS-origin viruses, Defense One reported.

The remarkable achievement comes after nearly two years of work on the virus, the news outlet reported.

The Army lab received its first DNA sequencing of the COVID-19 virus in early 2020, and very early on, Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch decided to focus on making a vaccine that would work against not just the existing strain but all of its potential variants, Defense One reported.

Walter Reed’s SpFN vaccine — Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle — completed animal trials earlier this year with positive results, the news outlet reported.

Phase 1 of human trials tested the vaccine against omicron and the other variants and wrapped up this month with positive results that are undergoing final review, Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch, told Defense One.

The new vaccine will still need to undergo phase 2 and phase 3 trials.

Unlike existing vaccines, Walter Reed’s SpFN uses a soccer ball-shaped protein with 24 faces for its vaccine, which allows scientists to attach the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on different faces of the protein.

"It's very exciting to get to this point for our entire team and I think for the entire Army as well," Modjarrad told the news outlet.

The vaccine’s human trials took longer than expected because the lab needed to test the vaccine on subjects who had neither been vaccinated nor previously infected with COVID, he added.

Increasing vaccination rates and the rapid spread of the delta and omicron variants made that difficult.

"With omicron, there's no way really to escape this virus. You're not going to be able to avoid it. So I think pretty soon either the whole world will be vaccinated or have been infected," Modjarrad told Defense One.

The next step is seeing how the new pan-coronavirus vaccine interacts with people previously vaccinated or previously sick. Walter Reed is working with a yet-to-be-named industry partner for that wider rollout.

"We need to evaluate it in the real-world setting and try to understand how does the vaccine perform in much larger numbers of individuals who have already been vaccinated with something else initially … or already been sick," Modjarrad told Defense One.

He said nearly all of Walter Reed’s 2,500 staff have had some role in the vaccine’s nearly-two-year development.

"We decided to take a look at the long game rather than just only focusing on the original emergence of SARS, and instead understand that viruses mutate, there will be variants that emerge, future viruses that may emerge in terms of new species," he told Defense One.

"Our platform and approach will equip people to be prepared for that."

In New York and New Jersey, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, and the Northwest, the omicron variant now accounts for more than 90% of new cases.