This idea began to take shape about six months ago and at the moment, 'in vitro' tests are underway and those carried out on animals will begin soon, Rúben Fernandes from the Medical and Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory – LaBMI at IPP, told Lusa.
The tests will be carried out on rats, fish and a very small species of earthworm, he stressed.
Speaking of a "completely innovative project in Portugal", the biologist explained that this vaccine, which can be ingested in yogurt or fruit juice, is unique in that it is based on genetically modified fruit plants and probiotics, he said.
“Plants are already genetically modified, as are probiotics”, explained Rúben Fernandes.
Stressing that the idea of this vaccine is that it easily reaches the end user, the researcher pointed out the differences between the current ones and this one: the current ones stimulate the neutralisation of the virus and the latter stimulates immunity.
"Therefore, both are preventive products, but in this case the vaccine neutralises an infection", he explained.
Vaccines will be able to conjugate probiotics or genetically modified plants or use just one of them, he stressed.
The biologist said that with using only probiotics this vaccine could be a reality in "six months to a year" because they are bacteria that can be quickly transformed.
Using fruits, the implementation "will be much longer" because the plants have to grow and bear fruit so that they can be used in industry and transformed into juice, he explained.
Noting that the vaccine is being financed exclusively with its own funds, Rúben Fernandes noted that, in a final phase, they will have to join forces with industrial partners in the food sector for the vaccine to reach the final consumer and gain scale.
“It will be the industry that will decide what type of product they want, we are going to be able to offer them several options”, he maintained.
Despite being directed to Covid-19, Rúben Fernandes believes that it may be of interest to treat other types of infectious diseases.