Scientists around the world are racing to find a cure for Covid-19
In these crazy days of Coronavirus, it seems everyone’s become a medical expert—each with their own particular theories about when the virus might end or a viable cure might be found. However, as scientists around the world battle to find a vaccine, what is the real situation with Covid-19 and how close are we to finally finding a cure or preventative solution?
The race to find a vaccine
When Covid-19 first emerged at the start of 2020, headlines proclaimed the development of a vaccine could take years, but with teams of dedicated scientists working around the clock, it seems real progress is being made in the efforts to defeat the virus.
Research and development trials have been conducted at unprecedented speed and there is now real and tangible hope that scientists may find a vaccine before the end of the year.
During development, all drugs are tested under three primary criteria: safety (toxicity), efficacy, and dosage. Clearly, the aim of testing is to ensure Coronavirus vaccines will be safe for human consumption but, of equal importance will be their effectiveness in curing or preventing the disease. Lastly, testers also need to check the appropriate dosages that can be safely administered to humans.
Producing vaccines at lightning speed
Typically, the development of a new drug or vaccine can take between 10 and 15 years through the various stages of pharmaceutical clinical trial manufacturing. However, over the last few months, scientists have worked collaboratively to gather data from previous trials on similar coronaviruses and cold germs, with unprecedented levels of success.
Drug trialing typically involves three key stages—preclinical (using computer models and lab-grown cells), animal testing, and tests on humans. Of the 26 vaccines currently in production, four are showing the most promise and have already moved to the third (and most important) phase of human testing.
Oxford University and AstraZeneca
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) works by teaching the human body to recognize and defend itself from the protein seen in Sars-CoV-2. By using a modified version of a virus that causes colds in chimps, scientists have been able to develop and safely administer the drug to humans. Phase two and three trials are currently underway worldwide—particularly in South Africa and South America, where Coronavirus cases have been high. If proven successful, the joint companies have committed to producing 2 billion doses for distribution globally.
The Sinovac vaccine (CoronaVac) works by using a non-infectious version of Coronavirus to teach the human body’s immune system to build resistance to the real virus. At present, trials are showing real promise with 90% success rates in neutralizing antibodies and no discernible side effects.
Unlike the other vaccines above, Moderna’s mRNA-1273 uses genetic material to promote antibodies in the immune system rather than relying on introducing weakened versions of the virus. Unfortunately, the vaccine required two doses before showing any discernible immune response and many participants have reported suffering mild side effects (fatigue, headaches, etc).
Pfizer and BioNTech
Much like Moderna, the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine model (BNT162b2) uses genetic code rather than doses of a modified Coronavirus. Volunteers have developed better immunity with improved Covid-19 antibodies but—much like the solution proposed by Moderna—many have reported side effects, including fevers.