A syringe and a vial labeled asthma vaccine.

Preclinical Trials for a New Asthma Vaccine

As we all know, unfortunately, a cure for asthma does not currently exist. There has been a lot of progress in asthma research over the years, which has luckily greatly improved awareness and treatments for the chronic condition. In the middle of last month (May 2021), some very exciting news was announced in the journal Natural Communications: successful results were found in preclinical trials for a newly developed asthma vaccine aimed at helping those with severe asthma.1

About the asthma vaccine

The results of the preclinical trial found that the asthma vaccine was able to create antibodies for specific inflammatory molecules. The molecules, called IL-4 and IL-13, are found in the airways of about 50 percent of people with asthma. Severe asthma is often caused by these two inflammatory molecules.1

If the actions of the IL-4 and IL-13 molecules are blocked, this can both improve lung function and also cause a decrease in severe flare-ups. A treatment called Dupilumab already exists and it is designed to do exactly this. However, the issue with this treatment and why it is not used more often is because there are issues using it long term.1

In the preclinical trials, researchers used mice to demonstrate the effects of the vaccine. In an acute allergic asthma flare-up, vaccinated mice had fewer asthma symptoms than those without. Additionally, after being vaccinated, the mice had antibodies against IL-4 and IL-13 that lasted up to a year.1

What's next?

The next step is testing the asthma vaccine in clinical trials. In the preclinical trials, the vaccine was tested in only mice, and the researchers are now looking for humans to participate in future clinical trials. An important question that researchers need to investigate is what the long-term implications of this asthma vaccine may look like in the human body. The vaccine has so far shown that it blocks the actions of the previously mentioned inflammatory molecules. and the researchers suggest that this could help those with other allergic diseases.1

This news and preclinical trial are very exciting, but keep in mind that clinical trials and research on vaccines can take years until it is ready to be administered to the public. According to the CDC, there are many stages for vaccine development, including the exploratory stage, clinical stage, clinical development, regulatory review and approval, manufacturing, and quality control. After this is the approval process, which includes steps like an investigational new drug application, pre-licensure vaccine clinical trials, Biologics License Application (BLA), an inspection of the manufacturing facility, and finally a presentation of findings to FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Commitee.2

It might feel frustrating that you'd have to wait several years for a potentially life-changing vaccine like this one, but each of these stages serves a purpose to ensure that the vaccine is completely safe.

Takeaway

There is currently no cure for asthma, but thanks to modern medicine, we are constantly improving upon the ways that asthma is treated and understood. With approximately 339 million people throughout the world living with asthma, a vaccine that lessens the severity of asthma flare-ups could be life-changing to many people. The preclinical trials for the asthma vaccine were a success, and now the vaccine will be tested in clinical trials with humans. It may be years until this is available to the public, but the data so far is promising.

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