February 27, 2024

Coronavirus: vaccine shortcuts

How about animal trials?

Shortcuts are being taken in the rush to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, according to an article in STAT. Scientists are not putting their experimental vaccines through animal trials.

“I don’t think proving this in an animal model is on the critical path to getting this to a clinical trial,” says Tal Zaks, of Moderna, a Boston biotech which has already produced a Covid-19 vaccine candidate with innovative technology.

Normally vaccines are tested on animals first, although this is not legally required. Moderna has already started recruiting 18 to 55-year-old human volunteers. They will be paid US$100 per visit, for a total of about $1,100.

“The traditional vaccine timeline is 15 to 20 years. That would not be acceptable here,” said Mark Feinberg, of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. “When you hear predictions about it taking at best a year or a year and a half to have a vaccine available … there’s no way to come close to those timelines unless we take new approaches.”

Not all bioethicists are convinced. “Outbreaks and national emergencies often create pressure to suspend rights, standards and/or normal rules of ethical conduct. Often our decision to do so seems unwise in retrospect,” said Jonathan Kimmelman, director of McGill University’s biomedical ethics unit, in an email to STAT. 

It appears that more than 24 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in development globally. It’s good business for Big Pharma. While the share market is tanking around the world, the share price of drug companies which are developing a vaccine have actually shot up, including Moderna.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge   

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