Coronavirus vaccine

Experts estimate it will take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine to be developed and deployed. There may be setbacks or unexpected successes, changing this estimate.   Please disregard any political noise on this issue.    Any vaccine will need animal testing trials.

I found the following link very interesting as why it takes so long:

From ferrets to mice and marmosets, labs scramble to find right animals for coronavirus studies

Here are the opening lines:

One lab is digging into its freezer to thaw out the archived sperm of SARS-susceptible mice. Another is anesthetizing ferrets so they don’t sneeze when the new coronavirus is squirted into their nostrils. Yet others are racing to infect macaques, marmosets, and African green monkeys.

One of the main points is that coronaviruses are not new to scientists. The SAR’s virus is a coronavirus.  But Covid-19 is a different one, coming with new complications.   Apparently,  the good guys in our body’s defense (the immune system) might end up making things worse as it can result in “a violent inflammatory response to a viral intruder.”  Scientists refer to this as the host immune response.  The critters used in experiments need a response as similar as possible to the ones in humans.

Science is supposed to build on prior knowledge, but can only do so if the past viruses are similar in their attack and host response.  In novel coronavirus, it looks like nature has thrown a curve ball.  For SARS –  the golden Syrian hamster “an excellent model” according to the above article.

Now we get to the crazy part.  Testing may be most effective using genetically altered mice.  “Give the rodents [mice]  human receptors, either inserting the molecules locally in the respiratory tract or breeding mice that have virus-susceptibility wired into the entire body’s DNA.”

These  special mice used for testing will likely come from two sources:  Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor, Maine (see link below) and University of North Carolina.    The best line of the article is:

Now, researchers are rushing to figure out which creatures work best, a task that could take months. “We’re at the ‘Uh oh, it’s complicated’ stage,” said Lisa Gralinski, a microbiologist and assistant professor of epidemiology who studies coronaviruses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

It’s absolutely complicated and really all the stuff about receptors and the virus sneaking inside a cell is beyond my high school level of biology.  But I immensely appreciate the author’s help in breaking down these concepts.

I also know of Jackson Labs, one of the great non-profit organizations.  It recently celebrated its 90th anniversary.  They will likely not be discovering the right vaccine, but they will be providing one critical element – the transgenic mice to research groups around the world.

My impression is we’ve got excellent research organizations and laboratories who are working around the clock on coronavirus.  There is an immense knowledge sharing worldwide.

Unfortunately bottom line is testing  of the many possible vaccines is challenging.  Finding the right test animals and creating a sufficient stock is one of the challenges.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Jackson Labs – Coronavirus

Notice from Jackson Labs:  We are now accepting pre-orders for the K18-hACE2 transgenic mouse model for coronavirus research.

An air-locked lab at UNC is leading research on cures for the coronavirus