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Skin patch T-cell Covid vaccine to be trialled in Switzerland

Man walking under image of hypodermic needle.
The new vaccine will be administered as a tiny skin patch bristling with micro-needles that release the shot within seconds. Keystone / Alexandra Wey

A British biotech firm is set to start clinical trials in Switzerland of a skin patch vaccine against Covid-19 that uses T-cells and could offer longer-lasting immunity than existing vaccines.

Emergex announcedExternal link on Monday that it had received the green light from the Swiss drugs regulator to carry out initial human trials in Lausanne, starting January 3, 2022.

The company’s easy-to-administer skin patch vaccine primes T-cells – a group of immune cells that can target and destroy virus-infected cells – to remove infected cells from the body quickly after infection, thus preventing viral replication and disease.

Robin Cohen, Emergex’s chief commercial officer, told The GuardianExternal link newspaper: “This is the first time a regulator has approved a Covid vaccine to go into clinical trials whose sole purpose is to generate a targeted T-cell response in the absence of an antibody response and those T-cells look for infected cells and kill them.”

Current Covid-19 vaccines mainly generate an antibody response that wanes over time, which means people need booster shots to maintain protection against the virus. The Emergex vaccine works differently, by killing infected cells quickly. This means it could offer longer-lasting immunity – possibly for decades – and could also be better at fighting virus mutations, said Cohen.

The trial will be conducted by Blaise Genton, a professor at the University of Lausanne’s centre for primary care and public health. He said: “This exciting new scientific approach to developing a vaccine against Sars-CoV-2 addresses the need to generate a T-cell response to elicit long-term immunity.”

In all, 26 people will receive a high and a low dose of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine. Interim results from the trial are expected in June.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR