Photo Credit: Ariel Hermoni / Israel Ministry of Defense
Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Prof. Shmuel Shapira at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in Ness Ziona. August 6, 2020.

The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in Ness Ziona has made further progress toward a Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine and will commence trials on humans after the Jewish New Year holidays, in October.

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz visited the Biological Institute on Thursday together with the director of the institute Prof. Shmuel Shapira and learned of the advances in the development of the Corona vaccine and antibody.

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“Experiments on humans should begin after the Tishrei holidays,” Gantz declared.

“All the initial experiments that have been successful are great news and a very big hope,” he added.

“Just as the IDF has special units that break in and pave the way for it – you are the Special Forces of the State of Israel in the field of vaccines,” Gantz stated after the visit.

Shapira recounted how the IIBR set off six months ago to find a vaccine, when Naftali Bennett was the Defense Minister, and now “there is an excellent vaccine. We start after the holidays with safety and efficacy experiments, but we have the product in hand.”

Vaccine tests on golden Syrian hamsters showed that a serum they have developed is effective, paving the way for tests on humans.

In May, the IIBR officially announced that it had completed the patent registration for eight Coronavirus antibodies, another significant step towards the production of a cure for the pandemic.

To date, some 19,006,000 Coronavirus cases have been registered worldwide in 213 countries, with over 711,900 deaths and some 12,192,000 recoveries.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said in response to hearing the update, “I am pleased to hear about the progress and I want to congratulate you on it. Continue on this path with the maximum speed that you deem scientifically sufficient. I directed that a vaccine be developed here in Israel out of great faith in our people and our abilities as a country.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed that staff work be advanced to evaluate the establishment of vaccine production in Israel.

IIBR Director General Prof. Shapira told the Prime Minister, “Six months ago, you dispatched us to bring a vaccine and antibodies to the State of Israel. We have carried out the mission, and are carrying it out in the best way possible. We have an excellent vaccine. This is the first vial of the vaccine; since last Thursday, we have a vaccine.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu directed that the process be continued ahead of the completion of the trials and the production of the vaccine so that Israel will have safe and effective vaccines for all residents of Israel by the end of the first quarter of 2021. The IIBR’s rate of progress until now has been in keeping with the timetables determined at the outset by the National Security Council (NSC), the Defense Ministry and the Health Ministry.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also instructed that action be taken toward defining an outline to allow other countries to purchase vaccine options from Israel. The financing thus obtained will be able to assist in the establishment of production capabilities and processes.

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