Corona virus: a race against time to develop a vaccine

New killer virus. Thousands of people get it. There is no cure. There is no vaccine.
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In the past five years alone, the world has faced an outbreak of Ebola, Zika, and another corona virus called MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), and now we have a virus known simply as "2019-nCoV".
Corona virus: a race against time to develop a vaccine

Thousands of people have contracted this virus, and have killed more than 250 people so far.

But unlike in many cases of disease outbreaks in the past, where it took years to develop vaccines to protect people, the search for a vaccine to help stop the outbreak of the Corona virus began within hours of determining the nature of the virus.

Chinese officials have released the virus's genetic code very quickly. This information helps scientists determine the likely source of the virus, how it might mutate as it spreads more widely, as well as how to protect people from it.

With technological advances and a worldwide commitment by governments around the world to fund research on emerging diseases, research facilities have been able to quickly start trying to find a vaccine.

Unprecedented speed

At the Innovio Laboratory in San Diego, scientists are using a somewhat new type of DNA technology to develop a possible vaccine. The vaccine is now called "INO-4800". Scientists plan to test it in humans early next summer.
"Once China introduced the DNA sequence for this virus, we were able to subject it to our own laboratory computer technology and design a vaccine within three hours," said Kate Broderick, senior vice president of the Innovative Research and Development Unit.

Broderick added that "our medical DNA vaccines are new, in that they use the DNA sequences of the virus to target specific aspects of the pathogens that we believe the body will respond to in a very large way."

"Then we then use the patient's own cells to become a vaccine manufacturer, which enhances the body's natural response mechanisms."

If the first human trials succeed, it will be followed by larger trials in the epidemic spreading region in China "by the end of the year," says the laboratory administration.

It is impossible to predict whether this epidemic is likely to end by that time. But if the laboratory plan goes according to schedule, the company says the vaccine will be the fastest new vaccine to be developed and tested on a pandemic.

The last time a similar virus - SARS - emerged in 2002, China was slow to inform the world of what was happening. With the start of work to find a vaccine in earnest, the disease had spread to almost an epidemic.

Corona Virus 2019-nCoV schedule

December 31, 2019: China warns WHO of a series of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan.
January 1, 2020: A market for food, marine and animal life believed to be the center of the disease is closed.
January 9, 2020: The World Health Organization announced that the infection was caused by a new type of coronavirus.
January 10, 2020: China shares the genetic code for the new virus.
January 11, 2020: Scientists have begun work to develop a vaccine against the disease, confirming the death of the first HIV-positive.
January 13, 2020: The virus is spreading out of China for the first time, with a case of infection in Thailand.
The work at Innovio is funded by the "Alliance for Pandemic Preparedness Innovations" (Cepi), which is funded and brought together by governments and charitable organizations from around the world.

The alliance was established in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, to provide funding to accelerate the development of new diseases vaccines.

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"The task is to ensure that outbreaks are no longer a threat to humanity, and to develop vaccines for new infectious diseases," says Dr Melanie Saville, director of vaccine research and development for the Alliance.

Molecular Dominator

The coalition is funding two other programs that are developing a vaccine for the new Coronavirus.

The University of Queensland is working on a "molecular controlling" vaccine, which it says "enables the rapid and specific production of a vaccine against many viral pathogens."

Modern Inc. in Massachusetts has joined the American National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to accelerate its research.

WHO is coordinating efforts to produce a new vaccine. The organization says it is following the progress of a number of research facilities, including three centers supported by the Alliance for pandemic preparedness innovations.
Despite the acceleration of efforts to find a vaccine for this new virus, research is still at an early stage in all facilities that preceded to find a new vaccine. Clinical trials usually take a long time, preferably in the context of the outbreak.

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There are no guarantees that any of the existing designs will be safe and effective enough to be used on infected people in China.

"We have developed a framework to identify which candidate vaccines should be tested first," says Anna Maria Henao-Restrepo, WHO's emergency program officer.

"Experts will consider a number of criteria, including safety profiles, appropriate immune responses, and adequate supplies of vaccine doses at the right time," she adds.

"Understanding the disease, its incubator, its transmission, clinical symptoms and effective measures to limit its development is critical to controlling an outbreak," he added.

The World Health Organization will decide which vaccine will be tested on humans first in the coming days.

Innovio announced that it will cooperate with a biotechnology company in Beijing that can help manage human trials that are scheduled to begin in the summer.

"This cooperation allows us to enter China and get our vaccine to areas where it is most needed as quickly as possible," said Dr. Jay Joseph Kim, President and CEO of Innovio.

source: bbc.com
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