When US president Donald Trump announced “Operation Warp Speed”, his plan to develop a vaccine by the end of the year, he may not have been too far from the truth.
US Bio-tech firm Moderna announced it has a positive interim data on Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
The next set of trials, potentially scheduled for July, will be the final stage before submitting the candidate to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if successful.
“We are investing to scale up manufacturing so we can maximize the number of doses we can produce to help protect as many people as we can from SARS-CoV-2,” said chief executive Stéphane Bancel.
The U.S. biotech company tacked nearly $7 billion onto its now-$31 billion market capitalization.
There could be a vaccine by fall, in theory.
Initial clinical results
Moderna said the initial eight patients tested produced the same or greater concentrations of antibodies that can neutralize the virus as “generally seen” in recovered patients.
But it’s unclear if antibodies are key to eliminating the virus. Some recovered people have very low levels.
Reuters says The data comes from eight people who took part in a 45-subject safety trial that kicked off in March.
The Moderna vaccine is one of more than 100 under development intended to protect against the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 4.7 million people globally and killed over 317,000.
The five possible vaccines have already been tested on more than 2,000 people in phase II trials with no serious side effects reported, announced Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission.
Phase III consists of a control group of individuals who are unvaccinated compared to subjects who have received the vaccine. The experts then determine whether the vaccine actually has an effect.
…But, we have a problem
According to VOX.com, a new Science paper by Lawrence Corey, John Mascola, and America’s two most famous biomedical researchers (Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health) has some useful practical cautions.
“It is likely that a SARS-CoV-2 challenge strain will, by design, cause mild illness in most volunteers and thus may not recapitulate the pulmonary pathophysiology seen in some patients,” they write. “Moreover, partial efficacy in young healthy adults does not predict similar effectiveness among older adults with major cofactors associated with COVID-19 disease, nor would it prove reduction of transmissibility to major susceptibility groups.”
Translation: The weakened version of the virus that volunteer patients would be exposed to might not resemble the version we most need to guard against, particularly in its effects on the pulmonary system. And just because a vaccine works in young people doesn’t mean it will work in older people with preexisting conditions.