By Harihar Swarup
Scientists and researchers all over the world have been striving hard to find a treatment for dreaded coronavirus disease, which has so far taken a heavy toll on life. Scientists now assure us that soon a breakthrough may be reached.
While announcing the extension of nationwide lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon young researchers and scientists in India to crack the vaccine challenge of the Covid-19 fight. The message underscores the importance of a vaccine as it is seen as the most viable way for human race to develop immunity against the novel coronavirus.
Developing a vaccine is long drawn, expensive and complicated process. But with Covid—19 pandemic rampaging across the world, the countries are racing to get one out. So how soon can you expect it?
The time to develop and market a vaccine is widely seen to be 10 to 15 years. But the efforts among researchers across countries and continents now is to cut that time to 12-18 months. Which is why experts suggest a cornonavirus vaccine could be available, at least, for conditional use, by early 2021. The development of the Ebola vaccine, which reports say, had an “accelerated” timescale for development, took five years.
Vaccines generally work by introducing molecules known as antigens of the virus into body’s immune system. These antigens mostly cannot cause the illness but train the immune system to recognize them as an invader and fight it if the virus attacks in the future. One to three coronavirus vaccines in the clinical testing phase, and many others under development, use this approach. But scientists are also looking to create vaccines from a copied genetic code from the virus and both the remaining vaccines in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation is needed to develop and manufacture vaccines for trails. But many more billion dollars might be needed to help companies scale up manufacturing capacity.
Scientific American broke it down: Likely cost per participant for human trails is $25,000 or more. It could take thousands of participants to test a vaccine, which means over $250 million just to get people for a single vaccine candidate.
How a vaccine goes from Lab to Market? The final item that is administered to a vaccine is an outcome of a long process. These stages in vaccine development are listed by CDC, against which the various vaccine candidates mentioned in a WHO document on April 11 are mapped in terms of progress.
Chinese scientists posted the genetic sequence of new cornonavirus on Jan 11, 2020, sparking hectic research globally to develop a vaccine. Researchers found the novel cornonavirus that has a lot of the same genetic material as Sars and mers and hence were helped in some cases by earlier research for vaccines for those viruses.
Sixty seven of 70 vaccines candidates listed by the WHO are in this stage. This includes vaccines being developed by pharma giants like Pfizer and Sanofi. This stage is when animal testing happens.
Small groups of people receive trail vaccine. The first vaccines candidate, made by US-based Modema, entered human clinical testing on March 16, 2020.
Vaccine is given to more people, especially with characteristics (age, health etc) of those for whom it is intended. The vaccine, being developed of a Hong Kong listed CanSino Biologics and the Beijing based Academy of Medical Sciences is ahead in race and 500 volunteers are being sought for the second phase of clinical trial.
Vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficiency and safety. Many vaccines also undergo an phase IV of continuing studies after approval.
Jennifer Haller, 43 became the first healthy human to be injected with a potential vaccine candidate in the first clinical trial to get off the blocks, in US in March. (IPA Service)