In the six months since the UK lockdown on March 23, scientists and experts working in Scotland have joined in global efforts to develop vaccines and treatments for Covid-19.
With restrictions being tightened again to try and curb the spread of the virus, how is this work going?
How close are we to a vaccine?
The Livingston plant in Valneva is undergoing a major modernization.
Earlier this month, the French company signed a deal with the UK government worth € 470 million to produce 60 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine called VLA 2001, if the vaccine is developed succeeds.
It would be an inactivated whole virus vaccine, which means that it does not contain any live virus that could cause viral replication.
While other types might only be suitable for healthy adults, Valneva hopes its vaccine can be used more widely, including for risk groups like the elderly.
David Lawrence, Chief Financial Officer of Valneva, said: “Clinical trials will begin in December and we will begin commercial production in January next year with the aim of delivering 60 million doses by the end of 2021”.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 170 research teams around the world are rushing to produce a vaccine.
Some are moving faster than others and have taken the final stages of testing. So far none have been approved for general use.
Professor Massimo Palmerini, director of the University of Glasgow’s Virus Research Center, said knowledge of other types of coronavirus has grown faster, but it is difficult to say when a vaccine will be ready.
“The pioneers of vaccines in development are those that are based on platforms that were developed years ago and the bits can be swapped out to be used for different viruses,” he said. .
“However, the steps to see if it is effective, even if we speed it up, will still take time”
What about the new treatments?
Significant progress has been made in the way the coronavirus is treated, especially for those who become sickest and require hospital treatment.
Professor James Chalmers is Professor of Respiratory Research at the University of Dundee and Consultant at Ninewells Hospital.
He said the hospital has treated more than 1,000 coronavirus patients in the past six months and seen almost all of them as part of a study it is conducting into the long-term health effects of Covid -19.
In March, there was no specific treatment for the coronavirus.
“What has really changed over the past six months is that as more trials have been conducted we have found specific therapies for the coronavirus – the best known being dexamethasone, l ‘anti-inflammatory,’ Professor Chalmers said.
“We have also learned that many patients can avoid going on the ventilator by using these tight-fitting masks, which provide an alternative that allows the lungs to heal over time. ”
Dexamethasone, a steroid previously used to treat a variety of conditions, has been hailed as a game changer for Covid-19 results.
Professor Martin Landray is Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford and led the Recovery trial on the effectiveness of dexamethasone and other known drugs.
He said BBC Scotland’s research was now shifting to personalized treatment for the coronavirus.
“We are now getting, for the first time, treatments that are in clinical trials and that have been designed specifically for this virus,” said Professor Landray.
“These are the neutralizing monoclonal antibodies in particular, they stick to the outside of the virus, prevent it from entering cells, prevent it from reproducing, prevent it from doing its damage.
“These antibodies are really showing promise, but we need the trials and we need the results to see if that promise comes true. “