A New Coronavirus Vaccine Wants to Take on More Variants Than Moderna and Pfizer

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

A New Coronavirus Vaccine Wants to Take on More Variants Than Moderna and Pfizer
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

A Culver City-based biotech company is testing COVID vaccinations it hopes will be effective against more contagious variants that have emerged from South Africa, California, Brazil and the U.K.


ImmunityBio — which is slated to merge with El Segundo-based therapeutics company NantKwest on Tuesday — announced that vaccine trial participants in the U.S. and South Africa have received their first dose of the vaccine.

The company is one of several locally that are developing new vaccinations, and comes as the Biden administration promises there will be enough doses to vaccinate Americans by May.

ImmunityBio's vaccine candidate known as hAd5 can be administered via injection or orally. It is still in early testing and has not yet undergone the Food and Drug Administration approval process The drug targets two viral proteins — the spike (S) protein, which allows the virus to enter humans' cells, and the nucleocapsid (N) protein. By targeting both, ImmunityBio and NantKwest hope the vaccine will be more effective for long-term immunity.

"Current COVID-19 vaccines only target the S protein, the primary source of virus mutations," said Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, executive chairman of ImmunityBio and NantKwest in an announcement. "These mutations may render existing vaccines less effective, so we have designed our vaccine differently and are driving T cells to both S and N."

Most coronavirus vaccines target the spike protein, and Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have become less effective due to a mutation in this variant. But the nucleocapsid protein "looks" more similar to the nucleocapsid protein in other strains of the coronavirus, meaning vaccines targeting it might be able to go up against more variants.

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The Streamy Awards Prove that Online Creators and Traditional Media Are Still Disconnected

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

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Slingshot Aerospace Raises $40 Million to Expand Space Object Sensor Network
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