Thursday, Sep 29, 2022
×
Outlook.com
×

118 Racers On The Block, Who Will Win The Covid Vaccine Race?

Traditionally, a vaccine’s clinic-to-market cycle can take upwards of a decade. So it can be a long wait

118 Racers On The Block, Who Will Win The Covid Vaccine Race? 118 Racers On The Block, Who Will Win The Covid Vaccine Race?

The starting gun was sounded as far back as the weekend of January 11-12, when Chinese aut­horities released the full sequence of the COVID-19 genome. The ‘vaccine race’ has now grown to field some 118 potential candidates and seen unp­recedentedly short projected completion windows—most experts endorse a 12-18 month ‘best-case scenario’. Traditionally, a vaccine’s clinic-to-market cycle can take upwards of a decade. Though the global health emergency brought on by COVID-19 has looked like catalysing that marathon into a sprint, the race has regulatory, scientific and market hurdles to overcome: the transitionfrom proof-of-principle to commercial development will be plagued by bottlenecks. And attrition too will play its part: industry benchmarks peg the failure rate at greater than 90 per cent. No wonder the European Medicines Agency dismisses claims of a ‘cure by Christmas’.

All this unfolds against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions and ‘vaccine nationalism’—faultlines that grew wider still at the WHO’s 73rd (but first ‘virtual’) World Health Assembly on May 18-19. Just days later, Donald Trump was to announce that America would be “terminating its relationship” with WHO. But at the Assembly, US-based biotech firm Moderna was making a pitch for Olympic gold. One of around eight candidates in clinical trials, Moderna cited early, non-peer reviewed data from Phase I human trials that began in March to ann­ounce that its mRNA-1273 vaccine had “elicited an immune response of the magnitude caused by natural infection”. That is, after the trial vaccine was administered, a small group of volunteers had shown levels of antibodies comparable to or better than those in recovered COVID-19 patients. Levels claimed to be capable of stopping the Sars-CoV-2 virus from replicating, suggesting—but not proving—a degree of immunity. Only days before, one of Moderna’s directors, Moncef Slaoui, had been named chief scientist for ‘Operation Warp Speed’, a White House initiative to accelerate vaccine development. Unsurprisingly, the FDA is “fast-tracking” regulatory reviews for its vaccine. All said, Moderna looks on pace to del­iver on its “early 2021” timeline.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement