This past week it was announced that a 37-year-old Canadian researcher is working on creating a safer and better vaccine against smallpox. Yes, smallpox was eradicated in the late 1970s so the vaccine wouldn’t really be helpful with smallpox cases (since there are none), but the vaccine is being created in order to help protect in case of a bioterrorist attack. Although the vaccine hasn’t been approved yet, the hopes are that this vaccine could be created in massive numbers to be ready in case there is a smallpox pandemic in the near future.
The original smallpox vaccine was created in 1796 by Edward Jenner using cowpox. Currently, the vaccine that is available for smallpox is vaccinia and while effective, it has led to cardiac side effects. This new suggested vaccine doesn’t use cowpox. Rather, HPXV is derived from horsepox, which is a horse skin disease. This version of the vaccine is thought to avoid all the side effects associated with vaccinia.
The vaccine is owned by US-based Tonix Pharmaceuticals and will soon be entering the first stages of testing with animal subjects. Also, since smallpox is no longer present, the usual clinical trial will obviously not be a possibility. It’ll be interesting to see how the trials work out.
--Jeanette Rios (‘18)