Covid-19 has taken more than 163 million people across the globe and nearly 3,39 million people lost their life due to this monstrous virus as we speak. Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air and quickly fall on floors or surfaces. You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within close proximity of someone who has COVID-19, or by touching a contaminated surface and then your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Many countries around the world have worked hand in hand in finding a vaccine for this new disease. One of the disciplines that play an important role in vaccine manufacturing is biotechnology. for example Cuba has five vaccines that are being developed with biotechnological methods to fight Covid-19. One of the vaccines being developed is Soberana-01. Meanwhile, two of the other vaccine candidates, Soberana-02 and Abdala, will be launched on a large scale. The director of primary health care at the Cuban Ministry of Health, Maria Elena Soto, announced on April 22 that the new trial would involve 1.7 million volunteers from Havana. as reported by the online media republika.
How can biotechnology play an important role in the discovery of the covid-19 vaccine? Biotechnology is the study of the principles of utilization or application of living things (bacteria, fungi, etc.) through modern techniques to transform raw materials through biological transformations process into useful products. in a simpler sense, Biotechnology is a branch of biology that studies the technology of using living things on a large scale to produce products that are useful for humans. one of the resulting products from the use of biotechnology is a vaccine.
according to Ihsan Tria Pramanda, Lecturer at the Faculty of Biotechnology, Indonesia International Institute for Life Science (i3L), stated that vaccine development is closely related to biotechnology. “In addition, vaccines are currently being developed based on genetic material (DNA or RNA) from pathogens (including for COVID-19) so that the production of antigens can occur directly in the individual body of the vaccine recipient,” said Ihsan.
Commercial vaccine production also applies a biotechnological discipline called bioprocessing. Includes upstream processes (such as preparation of growth media, production cells, and optimization of production conditions) to downstream processes (product harvesting, product purification, and production waste handling).
Ihsan explained that the standard method for making vaccines depends on the type of vaccine that you want to produce. Some vaccines use pathogenic cells or particles directly. some basic materials are made out of protein. There is also a vaccine production process that is made from genetic material.
Ihsan said that biotechnology has an effect on the risk of making vaccines. For this reason, biotechnology plays an important role in ensuring that the vaccines produced are safe and effective. Starting from the design and exploration studies of vaccine components (for example, antigen proteins), it is necessary to ensure that these components are antigenic and immunogenic so that they will work effectively on the recipient’s body.
In addition, during the large-scale vaccine production process, it is necessary to ensure that the vaccines obtained at the end of production meet the standards. The protein vaccine must be free from residues of the production medium, production host cell components, as well as impurities or contaminants that may enter from outside.
“In cell or pathogenic particle-based vaccines, the attenuation and inactivation methods used must be really precise and effective to reduce the risk of pathogens reactivating and the emergence of side effects in individual vaccine recipients,” concluded Ihsan.