COVID-19 Research: Finally a vaccine? What we know so far
Have we finally got an antivirus for Covid-19?
It seems like we’re nearly there. The quest for a covid-19 vaccine has seen significant progress with the announcement of effective results yesterday, after an intense race to vaccine development against the disease since January 2020. Some recent findings published on November 9th show a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.
They are the first to share data from the phase-3 trial, the final stages of testing. This is a crucial point in vaccine development, where some experimental vaccines will fail. Pfizer state that the vaccine has been given to more than 43,600 people and no safety concerns have been raised.
These results come reassuring with great hope in science and humanity as the world was at a halt due to the pandemic. In this article, we will dive into the R&D efforts taken to see how far we’ve come, key players in the vaccine development department, and what’s next
COVID-19 vaccine R&D landscape
As early as the 8thof April 2020, the COVID-19 vaccine and R&D landscape have 155 vaccine players racing. Among them, 78 are confirmed active and 27 are still say, underdeveloped as per the publicly available information. Of those 78 confirmed, 73 are at close to or are at preclinical trials.
That being said, as with any race, there are some front runners, that are way ahead of the pack into clinical development, the likes of Moderna, CanSino Biologicals, Inovio, and Shenzhen Geno-Immune Medical Institute.
The below chart by Nature Reviews does a great job of splitting confirmed & unconfirmed and other subcategories (Fig.1).
Who are the players?
The profile of vaccine developers running in this race shows 56 of the confirmed active players are private developers. With remaining, 22 are being led by the academic, public sector, and other non-profits.
Large multinational vaccine developers like Janssen, Sanofi, Pfizer, and GSM have gained a substantial competitive advantage as they possess enormous manufacturing and R&D capabilities. The larger the manufacturing, the larger will be their supply-chain and overall capacity to meet the demand, which is also, enormous.
Here’s another way Nature Reviews splits confirmed and unconfirmed by their geographic positions (Fig-2).
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the race, boils down to one critical component, funding.
An analysis of data available on the Devex funding databasereveals over $39.5 billion in funding has been announced for vaccine research and development, in addition to planning for vaccine manufacturing and distribution. Global investors or donors (between 1stof Jan. to 8thNov 2020), split as per COVID-19 Focus Areas are–
Response, with a total of $1,462M
HealthSystems, with a total of $1,088M
Equipment, with a total of $1,085M
Vulnerable, with a total of $4M
Vaccine development is a risk intensive exercise and requires substantial investments. And finally, a well-coordinated and cooperated effort between vaccine developers, regulators, policymakers, investors, public health bodies, and governments will be of a dire need to ensure that the late-stage vaccine players can also be paid attention to so that this enormous global demand we spoke of earlier, can be taken care of. Particularly, in low-resource regions.
The seriousness of this pandemic set off the funding boom that witnessed the number going as high as $22 billion in May 2020, at the time the impact of this pandemic was evident globally. European commission pledged another €15.9 billion, for universal access to tests, treatments, and vaccines against coronavirus. The boom continued in June, adding $12.7 billion. This was led by the $8.8 billion pledged to continue the work of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Have they found a vaccine?
To conclude, with billions of dollars being mobilized by governments, private and public sector, philanthropists, and bilateral arrangements to tackle this problem, Pfizer/BioNTechhave said that they’ve successfully conducted human trials aka Phase-3 trials of the first-ever vaccine which was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing the COVID-19 disease. On July 27ththe Phase 3 trials of the vaccine began and have since then enrolled 43,538 participants. 38,955 of whom have had a second dose of the BNT162b2 vaccine as of November 8th, 2020.
The trial will continue through to the final analysis when a total sample of 164 confirmed cases have accrued. The study will also shine a light on both, protection and prevention against severe COVID-19 cases too.Pfizer believes it will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year, and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.
Head of Research
Rodschinson Investment Strategic Research Center