Pitt researchers might have a vaccine for coronavirus, but it still needs extensive testing | Coronavirus | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pitt researchers might have a vaccine for coronavirus, but it still needs extensive testing

click to enlarge Microneedle Array Vaccine: The vaccine is delivered into the skin through a fingertip-sized patch of microscopic needles. - PHOTO: UPMC
Photo: UPMC
Microneedle Array Vaccine: The vaccine is delivered into the skin through a fingertip-sized patch of microscopic needles.
The University of Pittsburgh is well known for being the school where the polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s, thanks to the work of acclaimed medical researcher Jonas Salk.

Now the university might be on the verge of another breakthrough that could have global implications. Today, researchers at Pitt’s School of Medicine announced they have developed a potential vaccine to neutralize coronavirus. Researchers are awaiting regulatory approval, and then will begin at least a year-long trial to ensure the vaccine candidate is effective.

According to WESA, the researchers have already tested the vaccine candidate on mice and it produced sufficient antibodies to fend off coronavirus, but long term effects on the mice are not yet known.


Coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has spread rapidly across the world, with at least 941,000 positive cases and about 50,000 deaths. As of today, Pennsylvania has seen more than 7,000 positive coronavirus cases and 90 deaths.

The health publication EBioMedicine is publishing a paper today on the vaccine candidate, which is called PittCoVacc, or Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, the vaccine candidate can be mass-produced and stored at room temperature until use.

If successful, Dr. Louis Falo, a professor and chair of dermatology who co-authored the paper, said a press conference that the vaccine should be relatively easy to distribute. According to WESA, the vaccine would be “administered through a small patch, not unlike a plastic bandage, in which some 400 tiny ‘needles’ made of sugar and the proteins dissolve into the skin” and would feel similar to velcro on the skin.

Falo said a manufacturing facility should be capable of "making millions of these vaccines at a rapid rate. [But], we haven’t gotten there yet."

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