What difficulties will face when scientists invent a vaccine against a new coronavirus

At least 70 coronavirus vaccines are under development, according to a WHO report, and three of them are already undergoing clinical trials.

A number of organizations are involved in the search for vaccines for the new coronavirus – from pharmaceutical giants and tiny biotechnology companies to academic centers and nonprofit groups.

Developing a new vaccine is usually an expensive, complex, and time-consuming process, requiring hundreds of millions of dollars and many years of testing to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective.

Despite the current pandemic being the third outbreak of coronavirus in the 21st century – before that there were SARS and MERS – we still do not have approved vaccines against coronaviruses. Both drug manufacturers and healthcare professionals hope to significantly reduce development time in the current pandemic.

In particular, CanSino, a Chinese biotechnology company, is already working on the second phase of human trials as part of the development of its experimental vaccine, while American biotechnological startups Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Moderna have begun the first phase of testing on healthy volunteers.

Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergic and Infectious Diseases, says the United States will need at least 12-18 months to see the coronavirus vaccine. Moreover, some experts warn that even an attempt to meet this deadline is a risky plan.

So, Paul Offit, co-author of the rotavirus vaccine in the late 1990s, said that between 12 and 18 months was “ridiculously optimistic.” New vaccines, as a rule, must first be tested in the laboratory, then on animals, and then tested among a small group of people for safety before they are finally tested in large groups for effectiveness against the disease. And skipping at least one stage will be dangerous.

If scientists invent a vaccine against coronavirus, can the world produce enough?

One of the serious problems associated with the rapid creation of a large number of vaccines is the expansion of production capacities, since the necessary infrastructure will differ depending on the type of product.

The vaccine may consist of a weakened or inactivated version of the coronavirus or some portion of a surface protein or RNA or DNA sequence injected into the body inside a nanoparticle or other virus, such as measles. It may need to be grown in cell cultures, created using a device that synthesizes RNA or DNA, or even through the patented technology of fast-growing tobacco plants.

If vaccines made from inactivated forms of SARS-CoV-2 prove to be the most effective, it will be easier to assess what is required for their production, since this industrial technology has existed since about the 1950s. However, production and purification of the entire SARS-CoV-2 virus in high concentrations may require installations with certification of biosafety level 3, which are quite few. Perhaps that is why only a few companies try to use this approach.

At least a dozen companies are working on the idea of ​​introducing RNA or DNA compounds into the body that would motivate our cells to create one of the proteins used by SARS-CoV-2. But so far no vaccine with this approach has yet been approved for the treatment of any disease in humans.

And CEPI, the Epidemic Preparedness Innovation Coalition, has announced funding for six other research groups that want to reorganize the measles vaccine to produce the body’s SARS-CoV-2 immunizing protein. If this works, it will be possible to use the production facilities that were previously used to make measles vaccines.

By Cindy
In Other
April 14, 2020

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