When will we have a vaccine?—and other coronavirus questions answered

March 30, 2020
It’s another Monday in lockdown—but we have promising developments from a few member companies. First, we have a new episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, with insight on when we’ll have a COVID-19 vaccine. Second, another company is using synthetic biology to manufacture…
BIO

It’s another Monday in lockdown—but we have promising developments from a few member companies. First, we have a new episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, with insight on when we’ll have a COVID-19 vaccine. Second, another company is using synthetic biology to manufacture sustainable, moisturizing hand sanitizer—which you can actually order now—as well as a vaccine ingredient. Here are just under 900 words, or about 4-and-a-half minutes, to start your week.

When will we have a vaccine?—and other coronavirus questions answered

 
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Take an hour for a solitary walk today with the newest episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, featuring two of the MVPs of the COVID-19 fight: Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna Inc., and former CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, EVP and Chief Patient Officer of Merck. 

ICYMI: We launched a podcast, in which BIO CEO Jim Greenwood interviews industry innovators, policymakers, and patients—and today’s timely episode answers a lot of your questions about COVID-19, the timeline for a vaccine, and how long you might need to continue social distancing. 

So, when will we have a vaccine? Much sooner than the 5-15 years it used to take to develop one, explains Bancel, thanks to Moderna’s breakthrough messenger RNA technology. He explains the timeline and how it works in the first few minutes.

Yes, a vaccine in 2021 is possible. Moderna’s in “daily dialogue” with the NIH, FDA, and CDC to make it happen—and while the Phase I clinical trial is underway, Moderna’s already started to prepare for Phase II and Phase III, “planning for success until we know otherwise, because every day matters.” 

How is biotech being deployed? If Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it will be the world’s first computerized vaccine, created in a matter of weeks solely using the virus’ genetic sequence. That’s right. The biotech solution may be a pandemic-ending vaccine made without ever putting the virus under a microscope in the Moderna lab.

How much will the vaccine cost? While Moderna continues to work around the clock to create a safe and effective vaccine, Bancel assures listeners that the product will be affordable and available to everyone. 

How long do I need to continue social distancing? About halfway through the episode, Dr. Gerberding provides some insight on the need to continue social distancing, because COVID-19 is a “very transmissible virus at the community level.”

But testing could help. The more people we can test, the sooner healthy and less vulnerable people can go out again, she explains. 

The good news: “This is the industry’s finest moment,” she says. The science is much further ahead than during the SARS outbreak of 2003, putting treatments and vaccines on “the fastest track.” And the industry is working focused on our role in saving lives. 

Listen to the full podcast by visiting www.bio.org/podcast or wherever you get your podcast fix. Apple, Google, Spotify...

To learn more about the work being done by BIO members to combat COVID-19, visit www.bio.org/coronavirus.

 

More Health Care News: 

The Wall Street Journal: The Real Cure for Coronavirus
"Governments are frantically trying to contain and combat the coronavirus, and those efforts are important, but the world’s best hope is private innovation," the Editorial Board writes. 

POLITICO: FDA issues emergency authorization of anti-malaria drug for coronavirus care
“The agency allowed for the drugs to be ‘donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,’ HHS said in a statement, announcing that Sandoz donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to the stockpile and Bayer donated 1 million doses of chloroquine.”

 
 
 
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Synbio helps you get your hands on hand sanitizer

Here’s another example of the bioeconomy stepping up in the COVID-19 fight: BIO member Amyris is using synthetic biology to create safe and sustainable hand sanitizer, reports Biofuels Digest

Using synthetic biology, Amyris turns renewable sugarcane into a replica of squalene, a skin moisturizer our bodies create naturally. 

The product, called squalane (with an “a” instead of an “e”), is used in beauty and baby products—but now, Amyris is manufacturing safe, sustainable, moisturizing, baby-safe hand sanitizer. The company uses plants to make the ingredient instead of collecting from sharks' livers—a common source. They’ll donate some to front-line medical workers, too.

They’re also helping vaccine R&D, having completed “initial testing of a leading vaccine adjuvant,” which is “an ingredient used in some vaccines that helps create a stronger immune response in people receiving the vaccine,” making the vaccine work better, as the CDC explains

What they’re saying: “Our hand sanitizer is a great example of swiftly applying our market-leading squalane moisturizer to an immediate need. We expect to produce an estimated 30,000 units in the first weeks and to expand production quickly,” says Amyris President and CEO John Melo. “Building on our historical success with an antimalarial treatment, we are currently reviewing several of our fermentation-based molecules for potential efficacy in the treatment of COVID-19. We are quickly moving several of these into testing.” 

This is another example of the importance of the entire bioeconomy—and how the biotech industry holds the keys to solutions ranging from treating and stopping the vaccine to ensuring people have the supplies they need in this challenging time. 

Want to get your hands on the sanitizer? Visit www.pipettebaby.com.

 

More Agriculture & Environment News: 

Reuters: U.S. EPA waives fuel requirements, extends biofuel deadline to help refineries
“Refiners are typically required to prove their compliance by March 31, but facilities with less than 75,000 barrels of daily processing capacity will be given extensions. [EPA Administrator] Wheeler said the decision was related to ongoing litigation over the agency’s Small Refinery Exemption Program.”

The New York Times: For farmers, stimulus bill means subsidies continue to flow
“The law provides [Agriculture Secretary Sonny] Perdue with $9.5 billion to support farmers, including livestock producers, suppliers of farm markets and producers of specialty crops, and $14 billion in borrowing authority to replenish the fund he used to make trade-related payments to farmers in the past two years.”

 
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President Trump’s Monday: The Coronavirus Task Force is scheduled to hold a press briefing at 5pm ET. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House and Senate are social distancing at home in the districts until at least April 20. In the meantime, here’s an interesting read from POLITICO on how the coronavirus “shook Congress out of complacency.”

 
 
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