A drug developer that has successfully created a vaccine for Zika virus could have an oral inoculation for COVID-19 on the market by the end of the year, according to its chairman.

Wayne Channon, of Stabilitech BioPharma, is seeking £6mln to get the discovery through an accelerated clinical trial process. It is already more than a third of the way to that total.

OraPro-COVID-19 is being developed using viral vectors similar to those being experimented with by the Oxford vaccine study that has garnered much publicity in recent weeks.

Where Stabilitech’s temperature stabilised innovation differs from other potential treatments is that it can be taken in pill form.

This negates the use of painful injections, and crucially, the requirement to store the serum in a deep freeze type facility.

“It is as simple as taking an aspirin,” Channon said of the OraPro formulation for coronavirus.

“The reason we can do that is we are the only people who can make the vaccine thermally stable, not just at room temperature, but well beyond. We baked it at 50 Celsius for months to ensure it is thermally stable.”

Its drug, which was created from a harmless virus common in the human body, hits COVID-19 where it sits – in the body’s mucosal cells – rather than delivering the payload via traditional means through the bloodstream.

The convenience of having a pill-based solution shouldn’t be under-estimated.

Logistically, storing a more traditional liquid vaccine could be tricky given the freezer equipment required, while a national programme of injections could be time consuming and expensive.

As Channon told Proactive’s Andrew Scott: “We could mail this [the OraPro pill] out in the post.”

OraPro-COVID-19 has now been passed over to a specialist that will formulate it to good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards.

Practically, this means the drug will be consistent with zero impurities ahead larger-scale production and first-in-human trials.

An initial 50 people will be recruited to the firm’s study next month, leading to a second, 250-strong adapted trial.

By September or October 5,000 people could be taking part in the large-scale clinical assessment, Channon said. “That may be enough to allow us to go nationwide,” he added.

It’s at this point Stabilitech would require help from government as the costs of mass-producing and distributing the vaccine would be significant (and possibly too onerous) for the business.

“We want to be on the government’s radar,” said Channon. “It is difficult and expensive to develop [OraPro-COVID-19].”