Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which struck South Korea in a 2015 outbreak, was caused by a coronavirus--the same family of viruses that is responsible for COVID-19 (disease: COVID-19, virus: SARS-CoV2). Recently, a Korean research team announced that it had developed a new vaccine platform using RNA-based adjuvants for the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The research team successfully conducted an experiment on non-human primates. It is expected that the new vaccine platform will soon be applicable to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, an urgent global health priority. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) (https://www.nst.re.kr/nst_en/member/03_02.jsp) recently released the results of the joint research on the RNA-based vaccine platform for MERS-CoV, conducted by a research team led by Dr. Keum Gyo-chang and Dr. Bang Eun-kyoung from the KIST's Center for Neuro-Medicine and a research team led by Professor Nam Jae-Hwan from the Catholic University of Korea (CUK). The vaccine platform uses RNA as an immunostimulatory agent known as an adjuvant and consists also of compounds that maintain the stability of the RNA, together with the spike protein that the virus uses to invade the host cell. The new vaccine platform is expected to be used in the development of a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, which is also a type of coronavirus. Recently, many protein-based vaccines have been developed as they are regarded as having a high level of safety. However, protein-based vaccines induce a weak immune response in antibody-producing cells. This requires the use of a highly stable adjuvant for a more balanced immune response.
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