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Covid-19 Update: Hope on the Horizon?



Listening to the nightly news and the update of COVID-19 cases and deaths can put you in a less than happy hour mood. While the pandemic situation remains critical and protective measures remain critical, there are also a few glimpses of hope, both in terms of treatment and vaccine.

Faster Cures, a center of the Milken Institute, follows the progress of both; on May 5 it lists 199 treatments and 123 vaccines under investigation for COVID-19. Another vaccine tracker is maintained by the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society. They are, of course, at different stages of development and not all will be on the market. Yet it is surprisingly fast, as the World Health Organization declared COVID-1

9 a pandemic on March 11.

Human Vaccine Trials

  • An mRNA vaccine, which does not require a virus, is under investigation by Moderna, a biotech company, in collaboration with another company, Lonza, for production. Phase I (to look at safety) is underway and the company has asked the FDA for permission to start Phase II (to look at safety and effectiveness) for the second quarter of 2020. The vaccine is targeting a major protein (the peak protein) on the surface of the virus causing COVID-19. Instructions for making the protein are encoded in a & # 39; instruction molecule & # 39 ;, mRNA. The vaccine with this instructional molecule is injected, travels to the immune cells and triggers them to make copies of the spike protein as if they were infected, creating immunity.
  • A DNA vaccine from another company, INOVIO, has also started phase I studies. A handheld smart device that uses a short electric pulse opens small pores in the skin to deliver the DNA, which is specially designed to produce an immune response.
  • In the UK, scientists at the University of Oxford have started a Phase I / II study of a vaccine made from an attenuated version of adenovirus, a common cold virus, of chimpanzees. It has been genetically modified so that it cannot grow in humans. The vaccine is combined with genetic material that activates antibodies to fight the virus.
  • Four candidate vaccines involving mRNA are under investigation by Pfizer and an immunotherapy company, Biopharmaceutical New Technologies. Phase I / II is underway.

What the future holds for vaccines or treatments

On the treatment side, the FDA authorized the urgent use of an antiviral drug, remdesivir, to treat COVID-19 patients hospitalized with severe disease. .

Senior Planet asked experts to consider the status of vaccines and treatments.

"There are several candidates leading the pack," said Amesh Adalja, MD, infectious disease expert and senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. Vaccines from Inovio and Moderna, like Pfizer now, are moving fast in clinical trials. It's too hard to say what's most promising at the moment, but they all use new technologies. Everyone in the field eagerly awaits the results of clinical trials. & # 39;

& # 39; The Oxford vaccine is the furthest away, 'says Litjen (L.J.) Tan, MS, PhD, chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition. The developers have said they hope to have batches ready by September. Pfizer says it aims to have millions of doses ready by 2020. However, other experts warn that a 12 to 18 month timeline would be incredibly – and perhaps impossible – fast.

"For treatments, there is a lot of enthusiasm for the positive outcome that has occurred with remdesivir," says Adalja, referring to research that led to the FDA's emergency care authorization. "Although it was not a great success, it is something we now have to treat serious patients with."

Other bright spots? Unprecedented global collaboration, says Tan, in sharing data on the disease and vaccine development. Financing is also plentiful, he says. However, many in the medical profession remain cautious about the possibility of a vaccine ever being discovered, as HIV, for example, has been around for decades and no vaccine has yet been identified.

Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash


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