COVID-19 pandemic 2020: The search for a vaccine

10 January, 2021
Because the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, researchers across the world have joined the race for an effective vaccine. Here is how the search for a vaccine progressed throughout the year.

March 11, 2020, is a day that lots of folks will remember for a long time to come. That is when the WHO declared that the epidemic of infections with a previously undescribed individual coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, had pass on globally, qualifying as a pandemic.

Since that time, the world’s countries have cycled through restrictive methods - which range from physical distancing to full lockdowns - to attempt to keep carefully the spread of the brand new coronavirus in check.

Throughout this era of anxiety and uncertainty, scientists and users of the public alike have shared one mantra: The pandemic will subside once there is a commonly available vaccine against COVID-19, which may be the respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

During this feature’s publication, five vaccines have received authorization from different countries around the world as effective and safe against COVID-19.

How did we get here in 9 a few months? What routes does the science world ingest the search for practical vaccines? In this Unique Feature, we look at the vaccine research highlights from March to December 2020.

Spring: The beginning of COVID-19 vaccine research
Even before the Who exactly declared the emergence of a pandemic, scientists had started looking for vaccine and therapeutic targets.

In early on March, researchers from Germany and the United States had previously submitted papers to the journal Cell discussing potential mechanisms that may prevent infections with SARS-CoV-2.

Their laboratory and animal research then suggested that SARS-CoV antibodies will help block the virus’s entry into healthy cells, thus potentially reducing infections.

In mid-March, researchers from the National Institutes of Wellbeing (NIH) and the biotechnology company Moderna as well started enrolling the initial volunteers to trial what has now become known as “the Moderna vaccine.”

The Moderna vaccine uses a relatively latest technology that introduces genetic details about the virus into our cells to “train” the disease fighting capability to recognize and respond to SARS-CoV-2. This sort of vaccine is called an mRNA vaccine.

At that point, the NIH and Moderna were assessment primarily for safety, to make sure that their vaccine applicant didn't have major unwanted effects on health.

In April, researchers from the University of Oxford in britain and the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca started trials because of their private vaccine candidate, now referred to as “the Oxford vaccine” or “AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Their research group applied a weakened chimpanzee adenovirus, which is a common cold virus, to stimulate the disease fighting capability and deliver the genetic code for our cells to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This protein allows the new coronavirus to enter and infect our cells.

By delivering this protein in viral particles that cannot trigger disease, the researcher’s purpose was to safely introduce it into the body to “show” the disease fighting capability to respond to SARS-CoV-2, should it have contact with this virus.

At that time, the scientists from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca were hopeful that their vaccine would prove effective and safe and receive approval for public immunization courses by fall 2020.

A Chinese vaccine applicant also captured the attention of open public health authorities in April. That month, experts from the Chinese biotechnology enterprise Sinovac Biotech analyzed a vaccine made up of inactivated SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus macaques.

“What I like most [about this type of vaccine] is that lots of vaccine producers, also found in lower-middle income countries, could make such a good vaccine,” explained Prof. Florian Krammer, a expert in immunology and virology from the Icahn School of Medication at Mount Sinai in New York City, NY. Prof. Krammer was not involved with this research.

In May, the Oxford vaccine had been entering phase 2 trials in individuals. These trials aimed to discover if the vaccine would affect immune devices differently based on the participants’ ages.

Also, experts from the pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer and the biotechnology company BioNTech started phase 1 trials, or safe practices trials, in humans for their own mRNA vaccine prospect.

Pfizer representatives expressed satisfaction with the small amount of time it again took them to have the vaccine applicant from proof concept to human trials.

Dr. Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of the pharmaceutical company, declared that:

“The short, less-than-4-month timeframe in which we’ve been able to go from preclinical studies to human testing is extraordinary and additional demonstrates our commitment to dedicating our best-in-class resources, from the lab to manufacturing and beyond, in the battle against COVID-19.”

Also in May, scientists from the China National Institute for Foodstuff and Drug Control in Beijing, the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, and the vaccine enterprise CanSino Biologics published the results of the phase 1 trial of another vaccine candidate.

Their prospect used an adenovirus that's no longer in a position to replicate, which carries the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein on its surface.

According to the experts, the vaccine applicant was good tolerated at that time. When unwanted effects did appear, they tended to get mild.

The investigators also reported symptoms that their vaccine candidate might be effective found in fighting SARS-CoV-2.

Regarding to lead researcher Prof. Wei Chen, from the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in Beijing, “The trial demonstrates a solitary dose of the brand new vaccine [prospect] produces virus-specific antibodies and T cells in 2 weeks, making it a potential prospect for further investigation.”