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EComing to their most effective – and draconian – containment strategies have only slowed the spread of Covid-19 respiratory disease. With the World Health Organization finally declaring a pandemic, all eyes have turned to the prospect of a vaccine, because only a vaccine can keep people from getting sick.
About 35 companies and academic institutions are rushing to create such a vaccine, at least four of which already have candidates they have tested on animals. The first of these – produced by the Boston-based biotechnology company Moderna – will soon enter human trials.
This unprecedented speed is largely due to early Chinese efforts to sequence the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. China shared the footage in early January, allowing research groups around the world to develop the living virus and study how it invades human cells and makes people sick.
But there is another reason in advance. Although no one could have predicted that the next infectious disease that would threaten the world would be caused by a coronavirus – influenza is generally considered to pose the greatest risk of pandemic – the vaccinologists had covered their bets by working on “prototypes” pathogens. “The speed at which we have [produced these candidates] relies heavily on investment to understand how to develop vaccines for other coronaviruses, ”said Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), which is leading efforts to fund and coordinate the Covid-19 vaccine. development.