Urgent needs for a COVID-19 vaccine:

racing with virus!

Last Updated 15 Apr, 2020. Cellspect Co., Ltd.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated on 13th April that the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is 10 times more deadly than the swine flu (H1N1) in 2009, and emphasized that a vaccine is required to completely stop the spread. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an online press conference in Geneva that new coronavirus currently taking more than 133,000 lives and causing more than 2 million infections. WHO admitted that "in the end, it is still necessary to develop and deliver a safe and effective vaccine in order to completely cut off the spread of the virus."[1]

Vaccine candidates

According to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), By April 2020, there are as many as 115 new coronavirus vaccines under development in the world, of which 7 candidate vaccines have entered phase I clinical trials (table 1).[2][3][4] WHO document shows that the fastest progress has been achieved by CanSino Biologics Inc. and the Institute of Bioengineering of the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences. This experimental vaccine is currently in Phase II clinical trials.[5]

The epidemic of new coronavirus even made competitors into friends. On the 14th, U.S. time, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), two of the world's two largest vaccine factories that were in competition relationship, jointly developing a new coronavirus vaccine. Sanofi will use recombinant DNA technology to make vaccine candidates target the virus S protein antigen; GSK will contribute its vaccine adjuvant technology platform to reduce the immune responses of patients. Clinical trials will start in the second half of this year, and is aimed to put it into practical use in the second half of 2021.

Technology platforms

In April, CEPI scientists also reported that 10 different technology platforms were under research and development during early 2020 to create an effective vaccine against COVID-19.[2] Major platform targets advanced into Phase I safety studies include:

• nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) (Moderna, mRNA-1273)

• viral vector (CanSino Biologics, adenovirus type 5 vector)

• virus-like particle involved in DNA replication (Shenzhen Geno-Immune Medical Institute, LV-SMENP)


According to CEPI, the platforms based on DNA or messenger RNA offer considerable promise to alter COVID-19 antigen functions for strong immune responses, and can be rapidly assessed, refined for long-term stability, and prepared for large-scale production capacity. Other platforms being developed in 2020 focus on peptidesrecombinant proteins, live attenuated viruses, and inactivated viruses.

Perspectives and potential limitation

The development of new coronavirus vaccine goes like the raging fire all over the world. However, CEPI indicates the success rate of obtaining approval from Phase I to successful Phase III trials was only 16.2% for vaccines from 2006 to 2015.[6] What makes things worst is that as an RNA virus, the new coronavirus may have a high degree of variability that make human immune system less effective. the new coronavirus is very sneaky and unusual. Global statistics reveals that the virus survives in the body for a very long time. It usually takes more than 2 weeks for a patient from the onset to the negative, some even need more than 2 months to turn negative.[1] In some patients, the virus can still be detected on the respiratory tract even when they got antibody in their bodies. Scientists worry that even if the vaccine is successfully developed, the effect may not be significant. Therefore, in addition to the active development of vaccines worldwide, public health precautions and the development of effective treatments are also urgent.


  1. World Health Organization: WHO: www.who.int

  2. Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations: https://cepi.net/

  3. Thanh Le, Tung et al. (9 April 2020). "The COVID-19 vaccine development landscape". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. doi:10.1038/d41573-020-00073-5ISSN 1474-1776.

  4. "COVID-19 treatment and vaccine tracker" (PDF). Milken Institute. Retrieved 15 April 2020. Lay summary.

  5.  "China's CanSino Bio advances COVID-19 vaccine into phase 2 on preliminary safety data". FiercePharma. Retrieved 13 April 2020.

  6. "Clinical Development Success Rates 2006-2015" (PDF). BIO Industry Analysis. June 2016.

  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_vaccine#cite_note-milken-4

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