Scientists around the world are looking for a coronavirus vaccine. It’s essential not to rush this process, and it will take months or even years to develop the vaccine and make sure it’s safe. But the work has begun and some promising avenues have already been identified.
Researchers have a head start as the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen is similar to coronaviruses we’ve encountered before, including the SARS virus that struck in 2002.
Clinical trials of potential vaccines are underway in China, testing methods of stimulating our immune system to fight the virus.
The first US clinical trials for a potential vaccine have begun in Seattle. Biotech company Moderna has taken a piece of the genetic code for the pathogen’s S protein — the part that’s present in other coronaviruses, like SARS — and fused it with fatty nanoparticles which can be injected into the body.
Imperial College London is designing a similar vaccine using coronavirus RNA, its genetic code.
Pennsylvania biotech company Inovio is generating strands of DNA it hopes will stimulate an immune response.
Johnson & Johnson and French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi are both working with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop vaccines. Sanofi’s plan is to mix coronavirus DNA with genetic material from a harmless virus, while Johnson & Johnson will attempt to deactivate SARS-CoV-2 and switch off its ability to cause illness.
In the meantime, existing antiviral drugs may have an effect on the new coronavirus, such as remdesivir or the anti-flu drug favipiravir.