In the historic campaign to vaccinate the world against Covid-19, Corbevax was far from the first vaccine to hit the market. While the first mRNA shot became available 326 days after the SARS-CoV-2 virus was sequenced, the journey of Corbevax – which has so far been in the arms of 75 million children in India and recently got approval for adults – lasted about 600 days.
But Peter Hotez, one of his co-inventors, thinks it might have turned out differently had his team received more funding and there had been a smoother regulatory pathway.
“It probably could have been cut in half if we had the support to move faster,” said Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.
There were good reasons to go faster. The mad rush for life-saving vaccines has exposed the stark disparities between vaccines that have and those that haven’t. Corbevax, a patent-free vaccine based on older but proven technology, can be produced and distributed cheaply in low-income countries.
Corbevax’s story is relevant to a larger issue as the world tries to strengthen vaccine research and development infrastructure to move even faster and distribute vaccines more equitably. Vexing scientific, regulatory and manufacturing challenges must be resolved before the next pandemic, public health experts and representatives of advocacy groups have said in interviews.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, which was launched in 2017 in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, has proposed what it calls a lunar goal of boosting a vaccine against a new pathogen causing a pandemic in 100 days. The initiative is known as the 100 Day Mission.
Melanie Saville, executive director of vaccine R&D at CEPI, believes the group would have been ‘laughed out of the room’ if it had told people before the Covid-19 pandemic that a vaccine would arrive within 326 days – but there is already a way to go faster.
“If you really bring everyone’s innovation together from Covid-19, we could probably save two months already by meticulously reviewing every step of the process,” she said, citing CEPI analysis based on data. interviews with companies, international organizations, regulatory agencies. , academia and the media.
To get to 100 days, however, there is still a long way to go. The key is to do as much as possible from the start, she added, during so-called peacetime, much like decades-long RNA research ushered in the first Covid-19 vaccines. .
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