The Promise of a COVID19 Vaccine

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The Promise of a COVID19 Vaccine

Rapid progress is being made toward delivering a viable vaccine for the coronavirus responsible for COVID19.  For example, researchers at Inovio Pharmaceuticals were able to design a vaccine in just three hours once they received a sequence for the virus.  Along with a team of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wistar Institute, Inovio has been working on that vaccine since this past January.  And after just 83 days, they began the first human trial, which represents an absolutely unprecedented level of speed.

The research already completed proves that the vaccine works “in a test tube.” The new phase of the study involves testing the vaccine in low-risk people just to make sure the vaccine is well-tolerated by humans. Approximately 40 people are being tested during the so-called Phase-One Clinical Trial at locations in Kansas City and at the University of Pennsylvania. The final results from this test are expected this summer.

If no problems with patient tolerance emerge, Inovio will proceed with a Phase-Two Clinical Trial, in which the “at-risk population” will be tested. Phase-two is where they test it on larger numbers of patients and confirm the vaccine’s efficacy in humans. In preparation for Phase-Two, Inovio has already produced enough dosing for several thousand test subjects.

This is not the first time the firm has been asked to move at lightning speed. Using proprietary digital mapping of DNA sequences, Inovio was able to get a Zika virus vaccine to market in just seven months. However, getting a corona vaccine to market may take longer. Inovio recently received a $9 million grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations for the express purpose of speeding up the process of getting its vaccine to market. 

Why the delay? “Expanded efficacy studies,” which are called Phase-three Clinical Trials, normally take a very, very long time. That's why vaccine development, typically takes years or even decades.  At best, to commercialize a licensed vaccine taking the normal path, we're usually talking about a year-and-a-half to two years. That’s the figure that’s been quoted by the CDC and others.

But as Wistar’s Dr. David Wiener points out, that doesn't necessarily mean that we won't see a coronavirus vaccine being used much sooner, as we did in the case of Ebola. According to Wiener, once the Ebola vaccine in West Africa was tested through phase one, the researchers “did an exceptionally clever trial design,” which enabled them to use a relatively small number of people in a very quick phase two trial...

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