BOSTON (CBS) – Two Boston hospitals are teaming up in the race to find a cure for the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital are working together to develop a vaccine using a unique gene-based strategy.
Their research is using what’s called AAV technology, or Adeno-Associated-Virus technology, in hopes of stimulating the immune system to fight SARS-CoV-2 – the virus responsible for COVID-19.
“We’re taking a virus called AAV, that’s harmless and has been engineered to be harmless, and we’re using it essentially as a delivery vehicle,” explained Katrine Bosley of Mass Eye and Ear.
The AAV delivers a tiny piece of SARS-CoV-2 into the body – a piece too small to be harmful.
“That little piece can then stimulate your immune system to create a response, so that then if you’re exposed to the actual virus your immune system is already primed and ready to go,” Bosley said.
While that is the basic premise behind all vaccines, the AAV delivery is what is unique in this research she said. “It’s emerging; it’s a newer technology.”
Celtics co-owner and Mass Eye and Ear Board Chairman Wyc Grousbeck donated $1 million to the research.
The project is in pre-clinical stages, with a goal of human clinical trials beginning later this year.
While Bosley said it’s too early to put a final timeline on a potential vaccine, “we are obviously working with great urgency.”