FEB 21, 2020 7:18 AM PST

Why is it so Difficult to Develop a Vaccine for Coronavirus?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

As of February 21st, 2,250 have died worldwide from Coronavirus, while 18,862 have recovered and 55,703 are currently infected. Having made top news stories for around a month and a half, many may wonder why a vaccine for the virus hasn’t been made yet. Of course, the simple answer would be that it’s difficult. So what makes it difficult? 

To begin with, viruses mutate very quickly. Made up of ribonucleic acid (RNA), as this genetic material exists on a single strand, unlike a double-stranded DNA, it easily gets cut up and remixed once broken. This enables viruses to mutate quickly, meaning that any cures or vaccines made for a specific RNA may quickly become obsolete. 

Although vaccines have worked well in thwarting certain versions of viruses- the recurrence of polio in some countries thanks to a new mutated version immune to previous vaccines is a good example of how difficult it is to thwart viruses even once a vaccine has been made. 

More than this, vaccines generally take many years to reach the market as they must go through six developmental steps including a three-phase clinical development stage. This means that, by the time an effective vaccine has been developed and approved as safe-to-use, the emergency may have blown over. Alternatively, if urgency declines to develop a vaccine as infection rates diminish thanks to other factors, research on the vaccine is likely to stall and become neglected, as what happened with the SARS vaccine. 

Adding to this, contrary to popular belief, profit margins from developing vaccines are not as interesting as those for developing other drugs, such as painkillers, for most drug companies. Brad Loncar, a biotechnology investor and chief executive of Loncar Investments said, “Successfully developing a preventive vaccine or treatment for a public health crisis is difficult. It typically takes a lot of time and money...There is typically little money in it for companies that do successfully develop something, not the billions that some investors mistakenly expect."

Fewer incentives to develop vaccines also come as existing drugs used to tackle non-pandemic viruses are already being used, with some success, to tackle coronavirus. Gilead’s Anti-HIV drug Remdesevir for example has been used with some success in treating patients with coronavirus, while Kaletra, a combination of two anti-HIV drugs from pharmaceutical group AbbVie is currently undergoing trials in China. 

 

Sources: BBC, Worldometers and The Hill

 

About the Author
  • Annie graduated from University College London and began traveling the world. She is currently a writer with keen interests in genetics, psychology and neuroscience; her current focus on the interplay between these fields to understand how to create meaningful interactions and environments.
You May Also Like
JAN 14, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
JAN 14, 2020
Promising Treatment for Dementia: Antibiotics
A class of antibiotics, known as the ‘aminoglycosides’ may serve as a promising treatment for frontotemporal dementia—according to resear...
JAN 15, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
JAN 15, 2020
A New Drug Target for Substance Abuse
Research carried out by the University of Minnesota Medical School indicates a new drug target for treating a drug addiction. Researchers note that the dru...
JAN 15, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
JAN 15, 2020
Treating Malaria: Molecular Understanding of Drug Interactions
Crystallization is a process central to drug development that despite centuries of facilitating a particular method, chemists are still learning how to gra...
FEB 11, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 11, 2020
Traffic Light System Best Way to Label Cannabis Edibles
Cannabis products have become increasingly popular. Yet, as they are still relatively new to the market, research has found that most consumers don’t...
MAR 05, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAR 05, 2020
Molecule Found in Oranges Could Treat Obesity
Scientists at Western University isolated a molecule from oranges and sweet tangerines called ‘nobiletin’. Through the studies on mice the mole...
MAR 29, 2020
Neuroscience
MAR 29, 2020
Anti-Inflammatory Injection May Prevent Memory Loss from Alzheimer's
Around 5.5 million people in the US suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Now, research has found that reducing the body’s inflammatory response may...
Loading Comments...