COVID-19 Vaccine: How Did We Get Here So Quickly?
By admin December 4, 2020

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COVID-19 vaccine GSK

(Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP) (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP via Getty Images)

Given that vaccines typically take years to develop, development of the COVID-19 vaccine is the fastest in history. With vaccine distribution now underway in the UK and the United States, there’s still one lingering question: How did the scientific world make such rapid progress and what lessons can we take forward to tackle new epidemics and/or pandemics? What impact could RNA vaccines have on other diseases? We have curated some key article and insights below.


This STAT article provides an excellent overall analysis:

“Never before have prospective vaccines for a pathogen entered final-stage clinical trials as rapidly as candidates for Covid-19.

“Just six months ago, when the death toll from the coronavirus stood at one and neither it nor the disease it caused had a name, a team of Chinese scientists uploaded its genetic sequence to a public site. That kicked off the record-breaking rush to develop vaccines — the salve that experts say could ultimately quell the pandemic.”

“The colossal impact of the coronavirus is motivating the speed, opening a spigot of funding and inspiring research teams around the world to join the hunt. But the astonishing pace of the progress is also a consequence of the virus itself: It is, scientifically speaking, an easier target for potential vaccines than other pathogens, and a prime candidate for cutting-edge vaccine platforms new to scientists’ toolkits.”

“Once we got the sequence, we pulled the trigger to ask how fast we could go,” said Barney Graham, the deputy director of the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center. “And because it was a coronavirus, we could get into a Phase 3 trial in six months instead of two years.”

“Vaccines typically take years, if not decades, to reach people; the record now is four years for the mumps vaccine. Here’s what has propelled the Covid-19 endeavor to eclipse prior efforts so far.”

Click here for the rest of the article.


This MIT article provides a more detailed perspective on the technical side of the research:

“Developing and testing a new vaccine typically takes at least 12 to 18 months. However, just over 10 months after the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was published, two pharmaceutical companies applied for FDA emergency use authorization of vaccines that appear to be highly effective against the virus.”

“Both vaccines are made from messenger RNA, the molecule that cells naturally use to carry DNA’s instructions to cells’ protein-building machinery. A vaccine based on mRNA has never been approved by the FDA before. However, many years of research have gone into RNA vaccines, which is one reason why scientists were able to start testing such vaccines against Covid-19 so quickly. Once the viral sequences were revealed in January, it took just days for pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer, along with its German partner BioNTech, to generate mRNA….(cont)”


For a deeper look at RNA vaccines, this Cambridge University/PHG article:

“Vaccination is one of the major success stories of modern medicine, greatly reducing the incidence of infectious diseases such as measles, and eradicating others, such as smallpox. Conventional vaccine approaches have not been as effective against rapidly evolving pathogens like influenza or emerging disease threats such as the Ebola or Zika viruses. RNA based vaccines could have an impact in these areas due to….”

“Conventional vaccines usually contain inactivated disease-causing organisms or proteins made by the pathogen (antigens), which work by mimicking the infectious agent. They stimulate the body’s immune response, so it is primed to respond more rapidly and effectively if exposed to the infectious agent in the future.”

“RNA vaccines use a different approach that takes advantage of the process that cells use to make proteins: cells use DNA as the template to make messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules, which are then translated to… (cont).


This LiveScience article takes a closer look at the potential impact of RNA messenger vaccines on other diseases:

“But the COVID-19 pandemic served as an unexpected proof of concept for mRNA vaccines, which, experts told Live Science, have the potential to dramatically reshape vaccine production in the future. In fact, two COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, are 95% and 94.1% effective, respectively, at preventing an infection with the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19.”

“COVID-19 has really “laid the foundation” for rapid production of new vaccines, such as mRNA vaccines, to fight future pathogens, said Maitreyi Shivkumar, a virologist and senior lecturer in molecular biology at De Montfort University in Leicester, England. “With the technology that we’ve developed for SARS-CoV-2, we can very easily transfer that to other emerging pathogens.”


This article from The Scientist looks at the promise of mRNA vaccines:

Earlier this month, the world finally received some good news about COVID-19. Interim results from Phase 3 clinical trials revealed that two vaccine candidates —one from the Pfizer and BioNTech and another from Moderna—were more than 90 percent effective. In addition to sharing what appears to be very high efficacy, the vaccines have something else in common: they are both made with messenger RNA (mRNA).

mRNA vaccines work by providing the genetic code for our cells to produce viral proteins. Once the proteins, which don’t cause disease, are produced, the body launches an immune response against the virus, enabling the person to develop immunity. mRNA can theoretically be used to produce any protein, with the upside that it much simpler to manufacture than the proteins themselves or the inactivated and attenuated versions of viruses typically used in vaccines, making it an appealing technique, says Norbert Pardi, an mRNA vaccine specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.

The concept of using mRNA to produce useful proteins to fight disease has been around for decades. But until now, no vaccines using this technology have made it this far in clinical trials. The success of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines “is really good for the RNA field, because…”


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Thanks for sharing !

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