Updates on the Race for Coronavirus Vaccines and Treatments

1. U.S.-based biotech Gilead, known for its HIV and hepatitis C treatments, has partnered with Beijing’s China-Japan Friendship Hospital to test out an antiviral drug called remdesivir in actual humans in Wuhan, the apparent origin site of the coronavirus outbreak.

2. Thailand is verifying a treatment using three drugs. Large doses of the flu drug oseltamivir combined with HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, improved the conditions of several patients at the Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok.

3. Professor Robin Shattock, from the Department of Infectious Disease, the Imperial College of London team is one of only a handful of research groups in the world currently working to create a viable vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

The team will now be able to start testing the vaccine on animals as early as next week, with the hope that human studies could take place in the summer.

They went from sequence to generating a candidate in the laboratory in 14 days instead of 2-3 years.

4. China posted the genetic sequence for the Coronavirus 2019-ncov on Jan 10, 2020.

Moderna is a $7 billion company that is developing a messenger RNA vaccine which they hope to start testing on humans in April, 2020.

Moderna began writing the genetic ‘software’ for their vaccine — in the form of the mRNA instructions that the human body’s cells would need to make the coronavirus protein. The team picked a leading viral protein to seed a vaccine, and six backup proteins as well.

The Moderna team is debugging the software and ensuring that the final mRNA product is as biological stable and reliable as possible. Within a few weeks, when a satisfactory mRNA is made, it will become the key component of the vaccine that’s developed to test in people.

If the vaccine is effective in generating strong immune reactions against this coronavirus, it could serve as a template for other vaccines against as-yet unknown coronaviruses that might emerge in coming decades.

If the rapid mRNA processes can be proven this time then it would mean mRNA vaccines could be ready in as little as 45 days or less for the next virus outbreak.

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