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Feb. 22, 2021

An adjuvant vaccine for COVID-19

Hidehiro Fukuyama, Deputy Team Leader

Image of Hidehiro Fukuyama

Laboratory for Lymphocyte Differentiation, Center for Integrative Medical Sciences

Could you describe the aim of your project?

We are developing an adjuvant vaccine for COVID-19. Our goal is to establish a safe and simple vaccine for COVID-19. Adjuvant vaccines help by boosting the immune response, so they allow a smaller amount of antigen to be used, making it safer.

Why did you decide to undertake this project?

Vaccination was a great invention that has allowed us to prevent various infectious diseases. Our recent resarch on how an adjuvant can enhance the immune resonse led us to a serendepitous finding. We thought that we could make use of it to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. Herd immunity requires the global community to be immunized simultaneously. We will work to develop a needle-less vaccine system by taking an advantage of our new adjuvant discovered at RIKEN.

What techniques are you using?

We have been working on adjuvant vaccines based on a compound used to treat psoriasis, a skin disease, and realized we could leverage this research toward COVID-19. We are currently designing a vaccine antigen from the spike protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. What is unique about our vaccine is that we use a well-known compound, vitamin D to enhance the immune reaction from vaccination.

What have you found out so far?

We know that our vitamin D-based vaccine works for influenza. We are now preparing all materials to apply it toward a COVID-19 vaccine.

What is the next step in your work?

We are currently looking for a partner to achieve our goal of turning this technology into a product.