If in the coming months, a successful vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is available, it could be the fastest vaccine ever made. But where does the world stand?
More than 100 potential vaccines against SARS CoV 2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are under development, but hopes are pinned on four that seem to be ahead in the race. Here they are:
The Oxford University vaccine
A vaccine that billions have their hopes pinned on is the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. It has been developed by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford.
This vaccine uses a weakened version of chimpanzee adenovirus as a vector infused with the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
Adenovirus causes common cold. After vaccination, the SARS-CoV-2 surface spike protein is produced, which signals the immune system to attack COVID-19.
The University of Oxford had been working on vaccines on MERS and SARS diseases, which were caused by older types of coronaviruses. So, it was better placed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as there was an outbreak.
On Friday, the University announced that its researchers have begun recruiting adults and children for advanced human trials of the vaccine. The trials will involve up to 10,260 volunteers across the UK.
Initially, the first phase of trials began in April with about 1,000 volunteers. The results of the first trial were completed and are now under a follow-up.
The Serum Institute of India has been closely working with University of Oxford. The Indian company is planning to manufacture the vaccine and if everything goes as planned, there are talks of the vaccine being available by October.
Moderna RNA vaccine
The Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna’s vaccine candidate is said to be moving ahead of its schedule.
This vaccine is based on an innovative approach, wherein a specially designed messenger genetic material RNA antigen is injected into someone. The antigen provokes the immune system, thereby helping the body to defend itself against COVID-19.
The company has been doing phase-1 trials and has received the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) nod to start advanced phase trials. The speculation however is that while the vaccine looks easy to produce, it could be costly and supplies may be tightly controlled by the US government.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have been working on four vaccine candidates, each of them representing a different combination of the messenger RNA method and a target antigen.
The novel design of the trial allows for the evaluation of the various mRNA candidates simultaneously in order to identify the safest and potentially most effective candidate in a greater number of volunteers.
Pfizer started dosing its experimental COVID-19 vaccine on first participants in the US in phase-1 and phase-2 clinical trial for the BNT162 vaccine program. The firm plans to enroll up to 360 healthy volunteers from two age groups of 18-55 years and 65-85 years.
Pfizer has said that it has begun delivering doses of their coronavirus vaccine to candidates for initial human testing in the US and the trials in Germany had already begun.
Even though the drug is still under trial, the company is preparing plans to manufacture millions of vaccine doses starting this year.
A Chinese biopharma firm is also doing phase-1 and phase-2 trials of its COVID-19 vaccine and has announced that it is in discussion with regulators in other countries, and the World Health Organization to launch phase-3 clinical trials in regions where the disease is surging rapidly.
The company has also made a head start as it was previously developing a vaccine against SARS, the 2003 pandemic that also originated in China and is caused by a type of coronavirus.
The firm however had to abandon the plan at the phase-1 stage itself as that outbreak was contained.