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U of M researchers working to develop vaccine for future coronavirus strains

Other vaccines currently in development would target COVID-19, but not necessarily other variants.

University of Minnesota researchers are looking to develop a vaccine that would protect against future strains of the coronavirus.

The university’s Medical School announced Tuesday that it was working on a vaccine that could protect against variants of COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2 (the current novel coronavirus). Other vaccines in development would target the protein that allows the virus to enter the body.

But these proteins can vary between strains, said Dr. Geoffrey Hart, who is leading the project. A universal vaccine would target other proteins that would be more consistent through future forms of the coronavirus.

“Our hope is that the first wave of vaccines that other teams are working on will protect against SARS-CoV-2, and then our next-generation universal vaccine or antibodies would protect against future variants of SARS-CoV,” Hart said in a statement.

Researchers will first test on mice to determine if immunizing against these proteins is effective against COVID-19 and other strains. If the tests prove the vaccine is ineffective, it can help make other vaccines safer, Hart said.

Researchers hope data from these tests will be available in the next year.

“Coronavirus is not the only emergent pathogen out there, and so this technology would enable us to actually confront some of these other threats to public health,” said Dr. Marco Pravetoni, Hart’s partner on the project.

While researchers at the U look to future strains of the coronavirus, the first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. will begin a 30,000 person study later this month, according to the AP

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