COVID-19 vaccine research

Karisa Steffans, Tech Editor

With campus shut down and news all over reporting so much on what is happening with the spread of Coronavirus, most people are already aware of the illness and its symptoms. Schools have been shutting down, restaurants are closing, and people are being advised to avoid travel as much as necessary. However, these suggestions are all meant to slow down the spread of the disease. None of them are able to help treat it if caught, and many companies are now rushing to try and create some method of treating or vaccinating against this illness.

There are many companies around the world joining in the efforts to help treat coronavirus. All of them are at various stages within their production, however, progress is being made as quickly as possible. Some companies that are looking into treatment include Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and Vir Technology. Those that are looking into vaccines include Moderna Therapeutics, CureVac, GlaxoSmithKline, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi. These are just some of those looking for answers on what to do about this rapidly spreading disease, and all of them are at various stages of producing results.

CureVac and Moderna Therapeutics are both using a similar approach to the vaccine they are working towards. Their goal is to push the body into making antibodies to defend against the virus, utilizing synthetically created strands of messenger ribonucleic acid, more commonly known as mRNA. This form of RNA is what is involved in giving the body instructions to create proteins, which is why inserting the right form of this could be effective in pushing the body to create the antibodies as desired. CureVac expects to be prepared for human testing of their vaccine within a few months, while Moderna Therapeutics is beginning a volunteer-based study of their version of this vaccine at the beginning of next month. Despite their progress, however, Moderna Therapeutics has been struggling to obtain Food and Drug Administration approval for any of its mRNA vaccines.

GlaxoSmithKline has taken a different approach to try and push the body’s immune system into action with their vaccine. Instead of utilizing mRNA which would push the body to create proteins, this company intends on injecting proteins into the body to create an immune response. They have not yet stated when they expect to be ready for human trials of their vaccine, however.

Contrasting with the majority of the other companies working within the medical field on the coronavirus, Johnson & Johnson is attempting to complete a form of treatment and a vaccine. They have had a history of strong responses to outbreaks of other diseases such as Ebola and the Zika virus a few years ago. Now, they are working on developing a vaccine using one of the more standard approaches to vaccination. The idea behind this form of vaccination is to introduce the body to a deactivated version of a virus. This would allow the body to start an immune response, without actually becoming ill with the infection. For their process of looking into potential treatments, Johnson & Johnson is currently looking into their older medications and attempting to see if they have any effect on lessening the severity of the symptoms caused by the virus.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is also working towards a way to treat the virus, rather than vaccinate against it. Regeneron is a company that is known for its work with genetically modifying mice to help them create human antibodies. This allows them to take an interesting approach of attempting to introduce an analog to the coronavirus to these mice. The goal is to get the mice to produce the antibodies people would need to react to the virus and fight it off faster. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals expects to be ready for human trials by late summer of this year with this method of treatment.

Another company working towards treatment is Vir Biotechnology. This company is working on isolating antibodies from survivors of another virus known as SARS. SARS is similar to the coronavirus, and the hope is that the response to SARS within the body is similar to the response needed to combat coronavirus. They are currently in the early stages of developing their treatment, and as such, they do not have predictions for how soon their treatment will be ready for trials within the public.

There are many other approaches being investigated to try and help people increase their likelihood of surviving this disease and prevent more from contracting it completely. Vaccine research takes time, and there are many possible ways to create an immune response within the body, as has been described. Until then, it is best to follow the advice given by the Center for Disease Control and keep yourself informed on the progression of what is being established to treat and prevent this disease.