COVID-19 is not the inaugural coronavirus that is responsible for generating disease among humans. SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, and related strains could produce mass outbreaks or future pandemics. Unfortunately, the existing approved vaccines that offer protection against SARS-CoV-2, do not necessarily provide defense against these strains.
A group of scientific researchers are on a mission to develop one vaccine that would cover a variety of viruses and have the capability to cause a pandemic. For starters, “they synthesized mRNAs that encoded ‘chimeric’ spike proteins made of spike particles from high risk human and bat coronaviruses; next, they packaged various combinations of these mRNAs into lipid nanoparticle droplets and injected them into aged mice.”
These researchers discovered that their vaccines used in mice, delivered protection from many coronavirus strains, such as the Beta variant. They accomplished this by prompting powerful, counterbalancing antibody responses.
All-inclusive vaccines against existing and incipient coronaviruses could be feasible by way of vaccine production technologies. Additional investigation is required to improve design efficiency, and to test their efficacy through clinical studies in non-human primates.
Preparing for a Future Pandemic
Eric Lander is the newly appointed White House science adviser. Lander is front and center as it relates to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and was recently interviewed by The Associated Press after being sworn into office. He made it clear that he would like a vaccine prepared to attack any upcoming pandemic in approximately 100 days once identifying a probable viral eruption.
In Lander’s interview, he articulated hope for a future in America that is armed and ready for any subsequent pandemics. According to the adviser, he says the United States will be prepared with “plug-and-play” vaccines. Scientists are cultivating “all purpose” technologies that are ready-to-go well before a pandemic strikes.
Here’s how it works. As opposed to using the actual germ to construct a vaccine, scientists use messenger RNA and then they incorporate the genetic code for that germ. This protocol is what transpired with both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, and could explain why they were created relatively quickly.
In addition to fighting diseases through medicine and healing sick patients, Lander ex-plained that this strategy also has the ability to positively impact climate change as well as examine space.
“This is a moment in so many ways, not just health, that we can rethink fundamental as-sumptions about what’s possible and that’s true of climate and energy and many areas,” Lander said.
His training background is a mathematician and geneticist. Lander was involved in a human genome mapping project and has directed the Broad Institute at MIT as well as Harvard. The new White House science adviser explained that he isn’t necessarily concentrating on the current pandemic, but rather the insights gathered from this outbreak in order to get ready for the next one.
“It was amazing at one level that we were able to produce highly effective vaccines in less than a year, but from another point of view you’d say, ‘Boy, a year’s a long time,’” even though in the past it would take three years or four years, Lander explained. “To really make a difference we want to get this done in 100 days. And so a lot of us have been talking about a 100-day target from the recognition from a virus with pandemic potential.”
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