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COVID-19 vaccine

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A COVID-19 vaccine is a hypothetical vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Although no vaccine has completed clinical trials, there are multiple attempts in progress to develop such a vaccine. In late February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it did not expect a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus, to become available in less than 18 months.[1] By April 2020, some 50 vaccine candidates were in development, with four organizations having initiated Phase I safety studies in human subjects.[2][3]

Previous coronavirus vaccine efforts

Vaccines have been produced against several diseases caused by coronaviruses for animal use, including for infectious bronchitis virus in birds, canine coronavirus and feline coronavirus.[4]

Previous efforts to develop vaccines for viruses in the family Coronaviridae that affect humans have been aimed at severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Vaccines against SARS[5] and MERS[6] have been tested in non-human animal models. As of 2020, there is no cure or protective vaccine for SARS that has been shown to be both safe and effective in humans.[7][8] According to research papers published in 2005 and 2006, the identification and development of novel vaccines and medicines to treat SARS was a priority for governments and public health agencies around the world.[9][10][11]

There is also no proven vaccine against MERS.[12] When MERS became prevalent, it was believed that existing SARS research may provide a useful template for developing vaccines and therapeutics against a MERS-CoV infection.[7][13] As of March 2020, there was one (DNA based) MERS vaccine which completed phase I clinical trials in humans,[14] and three others in progress, all of which are viral-vectored vaccines, two adenoviral-vectored (ChAdOx1-MERS, BVRS-GamVac), and one MVA-vectored (MVA-MERS-S).[15]

2020 efforts

COVID-19 was identified in December 2019.[16] A major outbreak spread around the world in 2020, leading to considerable investment and research activity to develop a vaccine.[16][17] Many organizations are using published genomes to develop possible vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.[16][18][19][20]

Some 50 companies and academic institutions are involved in vaccine development,[2][21][22] with three of them receiving support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), including projects by the biotechnology companies Moderna,[23] and Inovio Pharmaceuticals, and the University of Queensland.[24] Five hundred clinical studies worldwide, across all stages of development on vaccine and therapeutic candidates for COVID-19, are registered with the World Health Organization Clinical Trial Registry, as of March 2020.[25]

In early March 2020, CEPI announced a US$2 billion funding goal in a global partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations to accelerate development of COVID-19 vaccines, with commitments to date by the governments of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, and the UK.[26]

On 2 April 2020, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reported the creation of a promising possible COVID-19 vaccine, named PittCoVacc, against the novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 disease, and are hoping for a fast approval track, lasting less than the usual year of testing, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[27][28]

Clinical trials in progress

Limitations

It is possible vaccines in development will not be safe or effective.[41] One study found that between 2006 and 2015, the success rate of obtaining approval from Phase I to successful Phase III trials was 11.5% for vaccines ("biologics").[42]

While the flu vaccine is typically mass-produced by injecting the virus into chicken eggs, this method will not work for the coronavirus vaccine, as the novel coronavirus cannot replicate inside eggs.[43]

Timeline of preclinical research

  • Around 24 January 2020 in Australia, the University of Queensland announced that it is investigating the potential of a molecular clamp vaccine that would genetically modify viral proteins in order to stimulate an immune reaction.[24]
  • Around 24 January 2020, the International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan announced the commencement of work on a vaccine, aiming to start human testing in 2021.[44]
  • Vaccine development efforts were announced at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention,[45] and the University of Hong Kong.[46]
  • Around 29 January 2020, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, led by Hanneke Schuitemaker, announced that it had begun work on developing a vaccine.[47] Janssen is co-developing an oral vaccine with its biotechnology partner, Vaxart.[48] On 18 March 2020, Emergent BioSolutions announced a manufacturing partnership with Vaxart to develop the vaccine.[49]
  • On 8 February 2020, the laboratory OncoGen in Romania published a paper on the design of an vaccine-design with a similar technology like the one used for cancer neoantigen vaccination therapy" against COVID-19.[50] On 25 March the head of the research institute announced that they finalized the synthesis of the vaccine and that they were beginning the tests.[51]
  • On 27 February 2020, a Generex subsidiary company, NuGenerex Immuno-Oncology announces they were beginning a vaccine project to create an Ii-Key peptide vaccine against COVID-19. They wanted to produce a vaccine candidate that could be tested in humans "within 90 days."[52]
  • Washington University in St. Louis announced its efforts to develop a vaccine on 5 March 2020.[53]
  • On 5 March 2020, the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, both in western Maryland, announced they were working on a vaccine.[54]
  • Emergent Biosolutions announced that it had teamed with Novavax Inc. in the development and manufacture of a vaccine. The partners further announced plans for preclinical testing and a Phase I clinical trial by July 2020.[55]
  • On 12 March 2020, India's Health Ministry announced they are working with 11 isolates and that even on a fast track it would take at least around one-and-a-half to two years to develop a vaccine.[56]
  • On 12 March 2020, Medicago, a biotechnology company in Quebec City, Quebec, reported development of a coronavirus virus-like particle under partial funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.[57][58][59] The vaccine candidate is in laboratory research, with human testing planned for July or August 2020.[58][59]
  • On 16 March 2020, the European Commission offered an 80 million investment in CureVac, a German biotechnology company, to develop a mRNA vaccine.[60] Earlier that week, The Guardian had reported the US President Donald Trump offered CureVac "'large sums of money' for exclusive access to a Covid-19 vaccine", with the German government contesting this effort.[61]
  • On 17 March 2020, American pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced a partnership with German company BioNTech to jointly develop a mRNA-based vaccine.[62] mRNA-based vaccine candidate BNT162, currently in pre-clinical testing with clinical trials expected to begin in April 2020.[63]
  • In Italy on 17 March 2020, Takis Biotech, an Italian biotech company announced they will have pre-clinical testing results in April 2020 and their final vaccine candidate could begin human testing by fall.[64]
  • In France on 19 March 2020, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) announced a US$4.9 million investment in a COVID-19 vaccine research consortium involving the Institut Pasteur, Themis Bioscience (Vienna, Austria), and the University of Pittsburgh, bringing CEPI's total investment in COVID-19 vaccine development to US$29 million.[65] CEPI's other investment partners for COVID-19 vaccine development are Moderna, Curevac, Inovio, Novavax, the University of Hong Kong, the University of Oxford, and the University of Queensland.[65]
  • On 20 March 2020, Russian health officials announced that scientists have began animal testing of six different vaccine candidates.[66]
  • Imperial College London researchers announced on 20 March 2020 that they are developing a self-amplifying RNA vaccine for COVID-19. The vaccine candidate was developed within 14 days of receiving the sequence from China.[67]
  • In late March, the Canadian government announced C$275 million in funding for 96 research projects on medical countermeasures against COVID-19, including numerous vaccine candidates at Canadian companies and universities, such as the Medicago and University of Saskatchewan initiatives.[57][58][44][59] Around the same time, the Canadian government announced C$192 million specifically for developing a COVID-19 vaccine, with plans to establish a national "vaccine bank" of several new vaccines that could be used if another coronavirus outbreak occurs.[58]

Technology scale-up

In March 2020, the US government, industry, and three universities pooled resources to access supercomputers from IBM, combined with cloud computing resources from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.[68][69] The COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium is being used to forecast disease spread, model possible vaccines, and screen thousands of chemical compounds to design a COVID-19 vaccine or therapy.[68][69]

An additional consortium of Microsoft, six universities (including one in the first consortium), and the National Center for Supercomputer Applications, working under the auspices of C3.ai, a company founded by billionaire software developer Thomas Siebel, are currently pooling their supercomputer resources for the same uses alongside developing medical protocols and strengthening public health strategies around the world, as well as awarding large grants to researchers who propose to use AI to carry out similar tasks by May.[70][71]

Rumors and misinformation

Social media posts have promoted a conspiracy theory claiming the virus behind COVID-19 was known and that a vaccine was already available. The patents cited by various social media posts reference existing patents for genetic sequences and vaccines for other strains of coronavirus such as the SARS coronavirus.[72][73]

See also

References

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