Five months into the global outbreak, the world is racing against time to prepare a vaccine for coronavirus. Trials are underway in laboratories across the world with several companies and governments doubling their efforts to find a permanent cure for the deadly virus. World leaders and organisations, except the United States, have already pledged $8 billion to research, manufacture and distribute a possible vaccine and treatments for COVID-19 apart from the individual efforts taken by the countries and its pharmaceutical firms. We take a look at what are the major developments of the coronavirus vaccine happening across the globe.
US pharmaceutical major Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech SE said on May 5 that they have already begun delivering doses of their coronavirus vaccine to candidates for initial human testing in USA. Trials have also begun in Germany. On the other hand, Gilead Sciences has developed Remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral medication that is being tested as a specific treatment for COVID-19 infections. The drug has been authorised for emergency use in USA and has been also approved for use in Japan for people with severe symptoms of coronavirus infection. Another pharmaceutical company, Regeneron stated that its 'anti-body' treatment drug could also be available by September. Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and several other biopharmaceutical companies have also ramped-up efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Johnson & Johnson is working with Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). In March, the company announced it had started pre-clinical testing on multiple candidates in Boston and later revealed that it had selected its lead vaccine candidate, with two back-ups.
The country where the outbreak first took place, has stated that it has received positive results from animal trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech is in discussion with regulators in other countries, and the World Health Organization, to launch phase III clinical trials of the vaccine in regions where the novel coronavirus is still spreading rapidly.
Apart from the vaccine created by Sinovac, Chinese scientists have three other potential COVID-19 vaccines in human trials: one from the Chinese military in collaboration with Tianjin-based CanSino Biologics Inc., and two from state-owned China National Biotec Group. CanSino also has plans to go global with the company submitting an application last month to conduct clinical trials for its vaccine in Canada.
Recently, Italian researchers claimed that they have successfully developed a potential vaccine that can contain COVID-19 spread in humans. Luigi Aurisicchio, CEO of Takis, the firm developing the medication, stated that for the first time a coronavirus candidate vaccine developed by them was able to neutralise the virus in human cells. "This is the most advanced stage of testing of a candidate vaccine created in Italy. Human tests are expected after this summer," Aurisicchio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.
Tests are being carried out at Rome's Spallanzani Hospital where researchers from the firm Takis successfully managed to generate antibodies in mice and they are hoping that it will work on humans too. A researcher from Takis stated "as far as we know, we are the first in the world so far to demonstrate neutralisation of coronavirus by a vaccine. We expect this to happen in humans too."
Defence Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett declared that the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has developed an antibody to neutralise the COVID-19 virus. It can attack the virus within the bodies of the infected and neutralise it.
The institute has already started testing the antibody on rodents from last month. Besides, the second research team, MigVax has completed the first phase of developing the COVID-19 vaccine and has secured a $12 million investment to develop the vaccine. However, the defence minister did not specify about conducting any trials on humans as of now.
More than 30 vaccines are in various stages of development in India, scientists informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 5. University of Oxford's vaccine is also being developed with multiple partners including India's Serum Institute of India. The WHO document says out of the 100 projects under pre-clinical stages, Indian companies like Zydus Cadila, Codagenix-Serum Institute of India, Indian Immunologicals with Griffith University, Bharat Biotech in association with Thomas Jefferson University, Biological E Ltd, and the UW Madison-FluGen-Bharat Biotech combine are all working on potential vaccine candidates to cure the coronavirus infection.
The government of UK has pledged EUR 388 million to fund vaccine research, tests and treatments. Scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University have stated to have made a potential vaccine for coronavirus. The vaccine is being developed with multiple partners including the Serum Institute of India.
Interferon Beta, a drug developed by biotech company Synairgen has been injected in patients as part of initial trials. Used for treating multiple sclerosis, the results of the Interferon Beta injection will be delivered by June. About 31 active case studies for vaccine development are going on in UK.