All humanity in the “hands” of five scientists against Covid-19

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THE coronavirus is here and is not expected to stop bothering us for at least the next couple of years, with experts and scientists even deciding that until it disappears from our lives through herd immunity, may already have killed a number of people worldwide between 9-18 million.

The desire to get rid of it is great and states, institutions such as the WHO, individuals and organizations are throwing tens of millions of euros into laboratories, doctors, virologists and infectious disease specialists in order to soon have in our hands a vaccine which will be effective against all existing coronaviruses, as well as all possible future mutations.

THE The Conversation spoke to five of the experts who seem to be closest to solving one of the most difficult medical puzzles of all time.

The one who mobilizes most actively from everyone is Coalition for Pandemic Readiness Innovations (Cepi), a global partnership between public and private charities and civic organizations, which aims to accelerate the development of vaccines. THE Cepi aims to produce these in just 100 days, that is, in a third of the time it took to create the first vaccines for Covid-19 infection, which was one calendar year.

Through its head and managing director, Richard Huchett, last March, Cepi announced that it would raise $ 3.5 billion to invest in research and development of vaccines to boost global preparedness for an even worse future pandemic. Of these, the $ 200 million has been committed to developing a vaccine that will be effective for allseroviruses.

According to Hatshet, “the goal is to produce a vaccine that will cover all their mutations, which would reduce the need to modify it on a regular basis due to the mutations,” but added that this could take several more years of research. “If we want a tree to grow, the best thing to do is to plant it 20 years ago. If we do not do this, then the best that can be done is to plant it today “, he comments meaningfully, pointing out that”the vaccine to be developed in the future should treat the coronavirus as a family of viruses and to develop in our body the corresponding immune reactions that will protect us “.

The wide coverage of the vaccine, the burning issue

«How much coverage can this vaccine provide? Should it be for Sars-1 and Sars-2? Should it be about Sars-2 and its mutations? Will it cover all rhinoviruses, to the wider family of which the coronaviruses belong? », He in turn wonders Andrew Ward of the Scripps Research Center in California.

The article explicitly states that creating a universal vaccine for a virus family is a very difficult task. “For example, scientists have been trying for years to develop a vaccine for all forms of the flu virus, but they have not succeeded. “Even for the HIV virus that causes the AIDS infection, they have not discovered anything for more than 30 years”, he emphasizes.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope: A new method that had progressed before the onset of coronavirus and in which the vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs).

“The hopeful thing about this method is that it has been tested in monkeys, and not only blocks the pandemic strain of Sars-Cov-2 and its newer mutations, but also Sars-Cov-1 and a group of coronaviruses isolated from bats. “and in the future they could infect humans.” Burton Haynes, Professor of Immunology at Duke University.

The fourth scientist who has fallen head over heels in, say, finding a vaccine is Pamela Bjorkman, structural immunologist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

The immunologist team has developed a vaccine based on a virus particle platform first developed at Oxford University in 2016. “We follow the principles of structural biology, that is, we look at the three-dimensional structures of the immune system, these characteristic spikes protruding from the coronavirus. We are trying to make a nanoparticle that will be like a tiny soccer ball. “On it we will connect pieces of the pin with a very simple technology developed by the University of Oxford”, concludes Bjorkman.

Finally, very close to the development of a vaccine that will cover all coronaviruses, he claims that his research team is also Jonathan Heiney, Comparative Pathophysiologist at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Scientists thoroughly studied the structure of the virus and then created synthetic DNA structures, which they will link to both conventional and newer vaccines, those of mRNA technology (Pfizer, Moderna). In animal experiments, the experimental vaccine provided protection against a variety of viruses, including Sars-Cov-1, Sars-Cov-2 and several bat coronaviruses, with Cambridge is expected to begin phase 1 clinical trials possibly in November.

However, as the article concludes meaningfully, “although in a year or two we may have a fully effective vaccine against Covid-19 in our hands, this may not be enough to end the whole adventure of humanity with the pandemics, mainly due to the increase of the world population and the frequent movements of populations “.

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