A researcher works on a vaccine against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020. Photograph by Thibault Savary, AFP via Getty Images
Considering the history and science behind making these drugs, “a year to 18 months would be absolutely unprecedented,” one expert warns.
Drug companies and universities are now racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, with at least 62 efforts currently underway, according to the World Health Organization. Experts are optimistic that a vaccine will prove successful, based on early evidence that coronavirus patients can produce antibodies, the proteins in blood that attack and neutralize viruses.
Much of the excitement has centered on Moderna Therapeutics, which had an early prospect ready for clinical trials just 42 days after the genetic sequence for the new coronavirus was released. But while public officials and news reports were quick to cite this as a record-breaking development, the biotechnology underlying this drug has existed for nearly 30 years, and it has never yielded a working vaccine for any human disease. (Requests for comment from Moderna Therapeutics have not been answered.)
If the past is any indicator, the world won’t have a coronavirus vaccine for more than a year, probably longer. Read more >>