It’s easy to complain about the role of big pharma in medicine-making and the hassle of dealing with protective patents when combating various diseases. But one thing is easily overlooked. All of this also means there are more labs than ever before- and that many of these are now looking to develop new vaccines against the novel coronavirus- many funded by governments- all over the world.
Currently, there are leeat least 42 vaccine candidates around the world under development. Here are five making headlines around the world in no particular order.
The first is mRNA-1273, developed by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Moderna, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm. Made from synthetic RNA molecules that may mimic the novel coronavirus, the researchers behind the vaccine are skipping animal trials and are already conducting human trials in the US, with the aim of recruiting 45 healthy individuals in the next 6 weeks.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have granted approval for Phase 1 clinical trials of a vaccine, known as Ad5-nCoV, that uses a replication-defective adenovirus as a means to express the spike protein found in the novel coronavirus. Developed by researchers at Tianjin-based CanSino Biologics and the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, it has already yielded positive results in animal trials. Now, for upcoming human trials, the researchers expect to enroll 108 healthy individuals in Wuhan’s Tongji Hospital.
BioNTech, an immunotherapy company from Germany, recently signed a letter of intent with Pfizer to co-develop and distribute an mRNA-based vaccine. In particular, it hopes to accelerate its COVID-19 vaccine programme, BNT162, so it may begin clinical testing by the end of April. This news comes just a day after an announcement that the company received up to $135m from Chinese-based Fosun Pharma to advance progress of its vaccine in China as well.
Galilee Research Institute (MIGAL) in Israel also has a vaccine candidate. There, researchers are working to adapt a vaccine initially created to tackle Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) in poultry for usage in people with the novel coronavirus due to similarities between the two viruses. Funded by the Israeli government, the researchers aim to begin human testing of the vaccine within the next eight to 10 weeks.
Lastly, Pennsylvania-based INOVIO also has a vaccine under wraps. Having just received a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they aim to accelerate testing of their novel DNA-based vaccine, known as INO-4800. Currently under preclinical study, the firm aims to expand into clinical trials next month with the ultimate goal of delivering over one million doses of it to patients before the end of 2020.