Israeli Research Institute Begins Testing Coronavirus Vaccine on Rodents, Report Says

March 31, 2020
Israeli medical worker holds a swab test for coronavirus at a drive-through site during a presntation for the press before opening on March 20, 2020 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) reportedly has started testing a prototype of a coronavirus vaccine on rodents.

Reuters reported on March 31 that this was according to a source in the IIBR; the source didn’t specify what type of rodent was being used in the trial. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the IIBR is “preparing a model for commencing an animal trial.”

IIBR Chief Innovation Officer Eran Zahavy told reporters last week that the institute has a distinct, unspecified animal ready for testing, pointing out that animal testing is difficult when it comes to coronavirus medicinal trials.

“This disease is not affecting animals,” Zahavy said. “It’s not enough only to detect neutralizing antibodies in the animal. You really want to see them getting sick and getting better by this vaccine.”

Haaretz had reported on March 18 that the IIBR had developed a “significant breakthrough” in a coronavirus vaccine; the Israeli Defense Ministry denied that report. The IIBR is an Israeli government defense research institute.

In February, the Galilee Research Institute (MIGAL) announced that it could have a coronavirus vaccine developed in 8-10 weeks and then obtain approval for it in 90 days.

Israel currently has 5,358 cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths. National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat said on March 31 that Israel’s social distancing measures will start to be relaxed after Passover, although he cautioned that the country is “still in a dangerous area. All it takes is one day like Purim, or one local outbreak, in order to thwart all our efforts, and therefore we are obligated to continue with the existing limitations and follow all instructions.”

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