Biovacc-19: a controversial candidate vaccine

A Norwegian-British study has stirred up once more the debate about the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The article, which appeared in QRB Discovery, describes the development of the rationale behind the Biovacc-19 development. Biovacc-19 does not follow any of the 8 more conventional vaccine design routes recently summarized in Nature. The authors stress the importance of an approach starting from understanding the etiology of the virus. Not doing so might result in ineffective or even harmful vaccines.

The researchers claim that the virus’ RNA sequence has elements which are artificially inserted. Moreover, the lack of mutation of the virus since the moment it began to infect humans is seen as a further indication that it was already adapted to humans.

The results landed in the public eye after former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove saw here new evidence that the virus was man-made. He conjectured that the outbreak had started with an accidental leak from a Chinese laboratory.

The work has immediately met with severe criticism by colleagues. The inserted sequences identified as artificial are not unusual in nature, as examples can be found in other viruses such as HIV and various types of influenza. In addition, there have been several publications showing evolution and mutation among SARS-CoV-2 strains. In summary: all what you would expect from a purely natural, non-synthetic source.

And the doom scenario depicted for conventional vaccine routes? Several vaccines already tested on humans seem to be able of triggering the immune system’s response. All in all, reason for some cautious optimism.


B. Sørensen, A. Susrud, A.G. Dalgleish, Biovacc-19: A Candidate Vaccine for Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Developed from Analysis of its General Method of Action for Infectivity, QRB Discovery, 28 May 2020, DOI: 10.1017/qrd.2020.8

Ewen Callaway, The race for coronavirus vaccines: a graphical guide, Nature 580, 576-577 (2020), doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01221-y

David Nikel, Controversial Coronavirus Lab Origin claims dismissed by experts, Forbes, 8 June 2020

Nancy A. Anoruo and Ayodola Adigun, Virologists virgorously debunk new study on origins of the novel coronavirus, ABC News, 10 June 2020