By Amanda Gutterman, CNN
(CNN) — The new vaccine for type 1 diabetes — branded as COVID — protects against a particular mutation in the immune system called a zeta, but not against other tumor antigens, as is typically the case with other experimental diabetes treatments, said Dr. Paul C. Collins, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Collins spoke about COVID, which was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month, Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Boston.
According to Collins, when researchers studied COVID’s production of adult T cells — T cells that attack bacteria, viruses and other pathogens — they found that COVID produced higher levels of these T cells than its competitors. Collins says this provides a “nice and achievable goal” for making COVID a commercialized product.
In the first published clinical trial on COVID, it was discovered that COVID produced more so-called “hypogroup-A” T cells. These types of T cells had been thought to be deficient in type 1 diabetes patients.
Of course, Collins says that is not all there is to the product. The trial was not designed to test if COVID is as effective as several other experimental products designed to fight type 1 diabetes, which is a disease caused by an overactive immune system, not a failure of the immune system, Collins says.
COVID is made from soy proteins and contains the carboxymethyl lactate (mML) surfactant that essentially dissolves glucose when COVID is ingested, allowing it to enter the bloodstream and bind to cells. It was licensed to Illinois-based manufacturer CD+ Therapeutics.
Collins says that the University of Utah, where the trial was conducted, is now part of a larger effort to study the different ways COVID may protect against other tumors. If they are successful, “it opens a whole new window into diabetes,” Collins says.
Collins says he was asked by the company whether the team tested COVID against zeta-mutated tumor antigens (ZMTAs) — meaning vaccines that might have the potential to be used for other cancers. Collins says the team did not have the time or ability to test this. “We could not turn back the clock,” he says. “It would have taken too much effort.”
According to NEJM, COVID’s main side effect was headache.
CDC experts did agree that the possibility exists that the vaccine may provide protection against omicron variant, or OVM, the gene mutation that causes type 1 diabetes.
Collins says he wasn’t able to review results from the other studies that have shown early efficacy of the vaccine, because they were funded by the manufacturer and were early in their clinical trials.