A group of scientists spearheading efforts towards finding a vaccine for coronavirus says they’re “moving at unprecedented speed” to begin clinical trials before June.

About 170 people have died of the disease as over 7000 cases have been confirmed, ever since it broke out in Wuhan, China.

Previous reports had stated that efforts towards developing a vaccine for the mysterious disease by the US’ National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) would take months to reach clinical trials or fruition.

But, according to the Financial Times, Richard Hatchett, head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), said his team looks to have a vaccine ready for human trial by June 2020.

CEPI is a Norway-based public-private coalition set up three years ago with a $1bn budget target and aimed at derailing epidemics by speeding up the development of vaccines.

“We are moving at unprecedented speed. This is the first new epidemic disease of note to emerge since Cepi’s founding,” Hatchett, a former US chief medical officer, was quoted to have said.

Medical staff treat a coronavirus patient at Zhongnan hospital, Wuhan University © China Daily/Reuters
Medical staff treat a coronavirus patient at Zhongnan hospital, Wuhan University © China Daily/Reuters

After coronavirus was detected in a live animal market in Wuhan, Cepi had moved to select two US biotechnology groups and the University of Queensland in Australia to lead a vaccine hunt.

With Cepi also partnering with a Boston-based company named Moderna within 48 hours, Hatchett said the coalition looks to carry out safety testing on humans in phase-one clinical trials within 16 weeks.

“We had already done a deep evaluation of Moderna’s technology so we could move very quickly. I had my first conversation with their chief executive and the contract was signed on Wednesday,” he added.

BBC also reported that scientists in San Diego are using a relatively new type of DNA technology to develop a potential vaccine, with plans to enter human trials by early summer.

According to the lab experts, if the initial human trials are a success, larger trials would follow towards having the vaccine ready for use.

“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,” Inovio’s Kate Broderick said.

“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.”

Amid global efforts to combat the disease, coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the US, among other countries.

Meanwhile, here’s all you need to know about the symptoms, treatment, prevention of the mysterious coronavirus.



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