As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread havoc in the world — surpassing over a million confirmed cases and reaching a death toll of 500,000 — hopes of a vaccine that could stop the disease are at an all-time high.
As UK chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty said, a vaccine is “one way out of this … and we all hope that will happen as quickly as possible.”
There is some good news on the Covid-19 horizon, however, according to a report in The Independent.
US scientists say they have developed a potential coronavirus vaccine that produces antibodies capable of fighting the virus and will apply for “investigational new drug” approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Independent reported.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found the vaccine, tested on mice, produced antibodies in quantities thought to be enough to “neutralize” Covid-19 within two weeks of injection, the Independent reported.
The team are far from alone.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there are at least 20 coronavirus vaccines are in developmental stages around the world, with the first human trials already beginning in Seattle, led by Boston-based biotech firm Moderna.
The trial is backed by the national institutes of health (NIH) and Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute, the Independent reported.
The speed at which Moderna’s vaccine is entering human trials is unprecedented, largely thanks to Chinese scientists sharing the genetic sequence of Sars-CoV-2 — a move that allowed research groups to grow the live virus and study its behaviour, the Independent reported.
After the phase 1 trial and a potential phase 2 trial over the summer, experts say the vaccine can begin a phase 3 trial by fall.
The latter would enroll at least 3,000 people, and if data shows the vaccine is safe and effective for that sample, the FDA could approve it.
Researchers were given permission to skip the usual animal testing phase.
In the UK, scientists from Imperial College London said earlier this month they have a “prototype vaccine” with “encouraging” results that could soon be tested on humans, the Independent reported.
Dr Robin Shattock, head of mucosal infection and immunity at the university’s department of infectious disease said: “It is a global effort. We are not racing against each other — we are racing against the virus.”
But despite the number of teams working at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine, some experts say it could still take around 18 months for any potential vaccine to filter down to the general public.
Anthony Fauci, director of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases in the US and one of President Donald Trump’s top health officials, said the process of developing a vaccine “is going to take a year, year-and-a-half at least.”
By then, the deadly wrath of the coronavirus may have come and gone.