The rush to roll out a coronavirus vaccine is on. A number of drugmakers and research organizations all around the world are grappling to develop a coronavirus vaccine. However, it remains to be seen whether a viable vaccine will be developed, trialed, and “on the shelves” before the pandemic reaches its peak.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the US House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday there are at least 10 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates “at various stages of developments.”
"Getting it into phase 1 in a matter of months is the quickest that anyone has ever done literally in the history of vaccinology,” he added. “However, the process of developing a vaccine is one that is not that quick.”
Within this group of candidates, they hope to start phase 1 clinical trials – small trials on healthy volunteers to make sure the vaccine is safe – within the next 4 weeks, then they will move onto phase 2 trials – to determine it actually works in a large group – that could take another 8 months or so. All in all, Fauci estimates it will be at least a year to 18 months before they can start to deploy the vaccine.
“Anyone who says they will [work] more quickly than that, I believe, will be cutting corners that would be detrimental, said Dr Fauci.
Despite this, some developing these new coronavirus vaccine candidates are remaining optimistic about their time frame, with some claiming a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year.
Medicago, a Canada-based biotechnology company, claims to be on the path towards a vaccine for COVID-19. The company says they have successfully produced a Virus-Like Particle (VLP) of the coronavirus after obtaining the SARS-CoV-2 gene, marking an important first step towards creating a viable vaccine.
VLPs are structures that closely mimic the organization of the real virus but contain no viral genetic material. Once utilized in a vaccine, the VLPs can be used to prompt a strong antibody response and cell-mediated responses to help protect against the virus, without any risk of infection. In other words, just like other forms of vaccine, they help teach the body to recognize the virus as an invader and train it to fight.
However, once again, it won't be available in the immediate future. Medicago CEO Bruce Clark told Defense One that the vaccine could start to become available in November 2021 if it manages to pass all regulatory hurdles, with their human trials expected to start in July.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc, another private biotech company, has recently said it’s also working on a vaccine to treat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and hopes to advance to human clinical trials in April.
Moderna is working with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and appears to be the closest to human testing. According to STAT, the biotech company started recruiting healthy people to test their vaccine earlier this month. This stage has been jumped to without completing animal trials first, which is a fairly controversial change from the typical protocol. However, as some have pointed out, this isn't a typical situation we're dealing with.