Glycovax Pharma will know in three months if its COVID-19 vaccine works

Laval and Montreal-based firm is using research started three years ago

Martin C. Barry

Glycovax Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Montreal with laboratories on Cartier Blvd. in Laval, is actively working on the development of a new vaccine approach to counter COVID-19 – with some important initial findings expected in three months.

Molecular research

According to the company, whose research team is led by Montreal-based organic chemist Dr. René Roy, Glycovax Pharma’s prototype glycoconjugate vaccine is currently in the preclinical phase. If all goes according to plan, Glycovax Pharma anticipates having a vaccine in as little as 12 to 15 months.

Glycovax Pharma scientific director and vice-president for research Dr. René Roy is confident the company is on track to finding a vaccine against COVID-19 within the next 12 to 15 months.

According to initial reports, the company had been working on a molecular research project involving breast cancer for the past three years when they found it had properties which could be used to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 and the coronavirus.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of researchers and scientists at Glycovax Pharma has analyzed the specific biomarkers of the virus.

Biomarkers in library

The research made it possible to discover that several biomarkers identified on the virus are part of a library of glycoconjugate immunogens developed within the framework of the work of researchers at Glycovax Pharma.

In addition, according to the company, the structures of these carbohydrates are very similar to the structures on which Glycovax Pharma had focused its work since 2017.

The company says this discovery prompted Dr. Roy’s scientific team to test its glycoconjugate vaccine candidates with a view to developing a first prototype of a semi-synthetic vaccine to counter COVID-19. Such a vaccine could, after a successful phase of clinical trials, be manufactured quickly and on a large scale, according to Glycovax Pharma.

‘Disruptive’ strategy, says Roy

“Analysis of the COVID-19 virus has shown us that it has properties that are directly related to the molecules we develop at Glycovax Pharma,” Dr. Roy, scientific director and vice-president of research at the company, said in a press release issued last week.

“This discovery allows us to envision a solution that could be deployed quickly enough to counter this virus. It is a disruptive scientific strategy that we have a duty to explore.”

Vaccines for meningitis

Dr. Roy is considered to be a world expert and a pioneer in glycochemistry. He helped develop two vaccines to fight bacterial infections that cause meningitis in young children. In association with Cuban researchers, he also helped develop the world’s first semi-synthetic vaccine that completely eradicated the disease in Cuba. The vaccine was subsequently administered to more than 65 million children worldwide.

As well as co-founding Glycovax Pharma, Dr. Roy is a professor emeritus at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) and associate professor at the Armand Frappier Institute of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), which is located in Laval. His research and development work since the creation of Glycovax Pharma in 2016 has also produced promising preclinical results on vaccines designed to treat various forms of cancer.

Will know in three months

“In response to this pandemic that is causing death here and around the world, our researchers are fully engaged in this war against COVID-19,” said Dany Valiquette, president of Glycovax Pharma.

“Their research on sugar chemistry has allowed us to develop a semi-synthetic vaccine for the population, whose goal is to prevent and destroy coronavirus in a safe and economical way to be produced on a large scale. Within three months, with the appropriate resources, we will be able to assess the effectiveness of our vaccine and whether it is able to destroy the COVID-19 virus.”

A revolutionary approach

Glycovax Pharma says its team includes scientists who are considered to be among the world’s elite in glycochemistry, glycobiology, immunology and nanotechnology. The company says they have designed a family of therapeutic tools based on glyco-nanomolecules that are revolutionizing the way to treat patients with cancer and other conditions involving bacteria and viruses. An online encyclopedia defines glycobiology as the study of the structure, biosynthesis, and biology of saccharides (sugar chains or glycans) that are widely distributed in nature. Sugars or saccharides are considered to be essential components of all living things and aspects of the various roles they play in biology are researched in various medical, biochemical and biotechnological fields.

Martin C. Barry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for the Laval News,