Scientist says it is working round the clock to launch a vaccine that could tackle the corona virus before Summer 2002.
Unlike in many previous outbreaks, where vaccines to protect people have taken years to develop, research for a vaccine to help stem this outbreak got under way within hours of the virus being identified.
Chinese officials released its genetic code simply known as “2019-nCoV” very quickly. That information helps scientists determine where the virus probably came from, how it might mutate as the outbreak develops, and how to protect people against it.
In the past five years alone, the world has faced outbreaks of Ebola, Zika, another coronavirus called Mers (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), and now the virus
At Inovio’s lab in San Diego, scientists are using a relatively new type of DNA technology to develop a potential vaccine. “INO-4800 ” – as it’s currently called – with plans for it to enter human trials by the early summer.
Kate Broderick, senior vice-president of research and development at Inovio, said: “Once China had provided the DNA sequence of this virus, we were able to put it through our lab’s computer technology and design a vaccine within three hours.
“Our DNA medicine vaccines are novel in that they use DNA sequences from the virus to target specific parts of the pathogen which we believe the body will mount the strongest response to.
“We then use the patient’s own cells to become a factory for the vaccine, strengthening the body’s own natural response mechanisms.”
Inovio says if the initial human trials are a success, larger trials would follow, ideally in an outbreak setting in China “by the end of the year”.
The work in these labs is being funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), which is made up of and funded by governments and philanthropic organisations from around the world.
It was created in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to provide funding to accelerate the development of vaccines for new diseases.
Dr Melanie Saville, director of vaccine research and development at Cepi, said: “The mission is to make sure that outbreaks are no longer a threat to humanity and to develop vaccines for emerging infectious diseases.”
The University of Queensland is working on a “molecular clamp” vaccine, which it says “enables targeted and rapid vaccine production against multiple viral