I meant to post this a while back (pre-vaccine release), but it was left languishing in the drafts.
If you read one thing today, this newsletter from Future Crunch should be it. It’s not overly lengthy, and this section in particular struck a chord with me.
Don’t forget the scientists. There are more of them alive today than have ever existed, and right now as you’re reading this, they’re all pulling in the same direction. Medical research is faster and of higher quality than at any other time in history. It only took two weeks after Chinese health officials reported the virus to the WHO for geneticists to isolate it and figure out the full sequence. During the SARS outbreak in 2002 it was months before the viral genome was sequenced and longer still before it was remade in the lab. Back then, it cost $10 to create a synthetic copy of one single nucleotide, the building block of genetic material. Now, it’s under 10 cents.
Dozens of biotech companies and public labs around the world have created those synthetic copies, and are now working around the clock. In the last 72 hours, three companies that specialise in messenger RNA therapeutics, BioNTech, CureVac and Moderna, have announced they have candidates. Animal testing has shown promise, and human trials are now just weeks away, with a vaccine expected to be ready for public use within the next 12 to 18 months. That means that a vaccine could become available within two years of the virus’s emergence. By comparison, it took 48 years to create a successful vaccine for the polio virus, and decades for most other vaccines, including Ebola.
It was scientists who discovered the threat, sequenced the genome, gave us the graphs to flatten the curve and the internet protocols that allow information about the virus to travel faster than the virus itself.