Since the beginning of the Coronavirus (korianvirus, in Finnish) pandemic, especially when it started to spread around the world, the main worries were: how do we stop it and is there a vaccine?
Self isolation and mandatory quarantines are adequate in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading further, as it could be seen in several countries, but to fully resolve this issue, a universal cure and vaccine need to be found.
From the moment health experts around the world realized that COVID-19 was a serious global threat, particularly since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic, there have been several scientists and pharmaceutical companies, mostly from China, Germany and the US, trying to figure out an effective treatment and a vaccine.
With 617,548 people infected, 28,377 dead, as of the moment of this report, this need is getting more and more desperately necessary. And although there are 137,336 people recovered, scientists and doctors don’t know exactly how they did recover, if they are now immune and still carry the virus and how this disease fully operates yet so the traditional treatments will not work as this virus is very different from the Influenza viruses.
In essence, the virus is so different and new that it needs its own vaccine.
At least a year needed
But that will take awhile, according to several medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who stated recently in an interview, that a vaccine “is not going to be available for at least a year or a year and a half”.
Which is why preventive measures like thoroughly washing our hands, avoiding touching our face, self isolation and closing down public spaces and business is so important and, so far, the most effective ways to prevent more people from being infected.
Currently the World Health Organization has 41 candidate vaccines and there are around 35 companies and academic institutions around the world trying to develop their own cure.
A few of these, like American biotechnological company Moderna, have said to be ready to enter human trials immediately.
All of the these recent and fast initiatives have only been made possible largely because the Chinese managed to sequence the Sars-CoV-2 genetic material early on and shared it with the international scientific community in the beginning of January of this year. The fact that most research focuses on analyzing the SARS virus is because it shares 80 to 90% of its genetic material to that of Sars-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19.
10 reasons for hope
Here are 10 of the pharmaceutical companies researching and trying to develop a vaccine and treatment:
- Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. Is developing a DNA-based vaccine and have already began preclinical testing with human trials planned to start in US, China and South Korea sometime in April. They also declared that they expect the first trial results to be ready by fall and to have 1 million vaccine doses ready for further clinical trials and emergency use by year’s end.
- Pfizer has announced that they would collaborate with BioNTech SE by helping develop and distribute the latter’s vaccine candidate which will be put into clinical trials in late April.
- Also american biotechnological company Novavax has been recycling vaccines created after two other Coronaviruses epidemics from 2002 and 2012 -the SARS and MERS, respectively-, and they stated that they are prepared to enter the human trial phase this spring.
- Gilead, another american company known for creating the first major cure for Hepatitis C is now conducting controlled and randomized clinical trials in the USA and in Wuhan, China, testing the effectiveness of Remdesivir on Covid-19 infected patients that experience mild to moderate forms of pneumonia.
- The British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, responsible for the creation of human papillomavirus (HPV) and seasonal flu vaccines, is now developing a pandemic adjuvant platform for vaccines that they believe will not only strengthen a vaccine’s response but also limit the amount of vaccine needed per dose. GSK also announced that the Chinese biotechnology company Clover Biopharmaceuticals Inc. is combining their own vaccine candidate COVID-19 S-Trimer with their adjuvant technology in preclinical studies.
- Moderna is trying to create a RNA-based vaccine built on work previously developed by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on the MERS virus. They have already started human trials and expect to have their Phase 1 clinical trials concluded on June 1st of 2021.
- Roche Holding AG, the Swiss drugmaker, has started Phase 3 of clinical trials for their, previously developed and approved rheumatoid arthritis drug, Actera to evaluate its effectiveness on hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe pneumonia symptoms.
- Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., announced two months ago that they are developing monoclonal antibodies as a Covid-19 treatment. They are currently in preclinical testing phase with the human trials phase planned by the end of August. They are also collaborating with the french biopharmaceutical company Sanofi in creating a treatment for patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infections and have already started a Phase 2/3 trial testing of their drug Kevzara on said patients, last March 16th.
- Vir Biotechnology Inc. is another pharmaceutical company currently developing and testing a monoclonal antibodies based treatment, in collaboration with Chinese WuXi Biologics company and Biogen.
- Vaxart Inc., one of the first companies, in late January, to declare that they would start developing a vaccine, have reported, this month, that they will partner with Emergent BioSolutions company in an effort to develop and mass-produce an oral vaccine, which they plan to begin Phase 1 clinical trial in the United States, in the second half of 2020, according to a company executive.
So even though vaccines and treatments are being developed, they will take a fair amount of time, which is why it is vital to continue following the experts and governments instructions to wash hands, avoid contact with face, maintain a safe distance from other people, avoid crowded places, leave the house only for necessary trips to the supermarket and pharmacy and work from home if possible.