The Quest for a Cure #57

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Deepnews Digest #57

The Quest for a Cure

Editor: Christopher Brennan
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, though the question now is how to get that cure, no matter how many pounds or dollars or euros it costs. The week’s Digest focuses on the search for medical treatments to help end the coronavirus crisis, whether it be a vaccine, a drug regimen or something else. Doctors and researchers around the world are on the task, and the Deepnews Scoring Model gathered some of the most in-depth articles on the subject.


Editor’s Note: This Digest was inspired by the Future of Medicine newsletter, which is one of the most informative in the Deepnews arsenal right now. If you’re interested but want more examples before you subscribe, we post some of the pieces on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
Story Source
Guardian
Ideally, we would have one ready to take off the shelf and roll out yesterday. One that could be delivered at scale. But this is a new disease that didn’t exist before December and we have a lot to learn about the virus and how the body responds to it. All new vaccines that come into development are long shots; only some end up being successful, and the whole process requires experimentation. Coronavirus will be no different and presents new challenges for vaccine development. This will take time, and we should be clear it is not a certainty.

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The Hindu
The story so far: As the months progress, the world seems still maddeningly short of definitive treatment or vaccine options against COVID-19. However, as the number of people with active COVID-19 infections has increased globally, scientists are “close” to deciding on some promising drug and vaccine candidates and clinical trials are on at multiple centres to test the safety and efficacy of these options.

Editor’s Note: Beyond a vaccine, one route that doctors are looking at for treatment is through the blood of patients who have recovered from COVID and have antibodies, which could help those still suffering fight the virus. Ramya Kannan digs into it for The Hindu.

The Telegraph
In the UK a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford will begin human trials from Thursday, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has said. Speaking at the Government’s daily press briefing on Tuesday Mr Hancock said he is “throwing everything at” the country’s efforts to create a Covid-19 vaccine.

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Financial Times ($)
“Chaotic” is how Jorge Contreras, a law professor at the University of Utah, describes a struggle by companies and governments to navigate intellectual property law in the urgent search for Covid-19 treatments.

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Vox
It takes a really long time to get a grant for scientific research. Official advice from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the largest source of grants for science research in the US, recommends that grant planning begin nine months in advance of the deadline for the grant. Time surveys suggest that top researchers may spend as much as half their time writing grant applications.

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Deutsche Welle
Too high a dose of the anti-malarial agent chloroquine can cause severe cardiac arrhythmia in certain patients. Tests on COVID-19 patients in the United States and Brazil have shown increased fatalities.

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Project Syndicate
Governments should implement appropriate industrial policies and create national task forces, potentially headed by public-health institutes, to help manage the search for vaccines and therapeutics, including by ensuring the necessary funding.

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World Economic Forum
As several companies race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, the public is repeatedly reminded that the finish line is at least 12 to 18 months away. This timeline feels excruciatingly long as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the world around us. But it deserves some context. New technologies combined with international cooperation to fight infectious diseases are enabling faster responses to new disease outbreaks, shaving several years from traditional vaccine development timelines. Here are the key steps in the path to developing a vaccine against coronavirus and an outline of what they mean for time saving and for you.

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Press Association
Human vaccine trials in Oxford were due to start on Thursday after receiving £20 million of fresh Government investment.

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Massive Science
“Plantibodies” represent a new avenue for treatments against fast moving viruses like influenza or coronavirus

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NY Times
The Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist has been attacked with falsehoods that he created the coronavirus and wants to profit from it.

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The Citizen (South Africa)
The professor explained that her background in HIV vaccine research had given her a strong foundation to tackle Covid-19.

Editor’s Note: As I mentioned up top, the search for solutions is taking place all over the world, including countries that have confronted different deadly diseases. This article features Glenda Gray of the South African Medical Research Council who has spent a large part of her life working against HIV.

myUpchar
Today, the Oxford University vaccine candidate for COVID-19 is entering clinical trials. According to the World Health Organisation’s list of 70 COVID-19 vaccine candidates, this will be the fourth COVID-19 vaccine to enter the clinical trial phase after the Moderna candidate in the USA and two others in China.

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MIT
After cities shut down and citizens were urged to stay home to slow the spread of Covid-19, scientists in major cities like Boston were suddenly far removed from their labs. At MIT, on-campus research was ramped down, reduced to only the most critical activities. That includes important work to better understand the virus and help stop the spread.

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STAT News
It’s likely that scientists will develop an effective vaccine to end this pandemic, but it may take a long time to get there. I’m glad that a number of different approaches will be clinically evaluated because creating safe and effective vaccines is actually a difficult process. It’s not rocket science — it’s often much harder. Three decades after AIDS began its march around the world, we still don’t have a vaccine to prevent it. And while there are effective treatments, they’re costly (PrEP, for example, is unaffordable in many countries), come with significant side effects, and do not (in most cases) prevent the further spread of the disease.

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Macleans
Paul Wells: For decades, researchers and officials obsessed with planning to stop an outbreak. Then along came COVID-19 and we were sitting ducks. What went wrong?

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Reuters
BERLIN – When he was diagnosed with COVID-19, Andre Bergmann knew exactly where he wanted to be treated: the Bethanien hospital lung clinic in Moers, near his home in northwestern Germany.

Editor’s Note: It’s a word that few were very familiar with several months ago but now is everywhere: ventilator. Here Reuters reports, with journalists contributing from around the world, about changes that doctors are looking at with the devices as they treat the patients in most urgent need of care.

German Center for Infection Research
Over the past 20 years, coronaviruses have been responsible for large outbreaks, resulting in severe respiratory illness and a number of deaths. These include the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2002, the MERS coronavirus outbreak in 2012 and the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak which is currently rapidly spreading worldwide. Scientists at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) have now conducted a first-in-human trial with a vaccine against “MERS” (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). The MVA-MERS-S vaccine was tolerated well and triggered the development of antibodies and T cell immunity.

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Science
On 19 March, as much of the United States shut down to contain the new coronavirus, genetic cardiologist Michael Ackerman and his wife drove 7.5 hours to retrieve their son from college. On the radio, they heard medical experts discussing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two antimalarial drugs that President Donald Trump had just touted at a press briefing, despite no conclusive evidence that they can treat COVID-19. A doctor on the show asserted that the drugs have proved to be completely safe because they’ve been used against malaria for decades and are also used to tame overactive immune cells in lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

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NY Times
In the Spring of 2014, Nadine Gartner was traveling through Portland International Airport when her phone buzzed with an alarming news alert. The previous day, someone with measles had passed through the same terminal that Gartner — and her 1-year-old daughter — now sat in

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China Daily
As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, experts are scrambling to develop a vaccine to protect millions of people from infection.

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The Lancet
The world is rushing to test potential COVID-19 treatments. But do we really need so many trials? Asher Mullard reports. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) drug pipeline is not growing at quite the same speed as the pandemic. But its rate of expansion is nevertheless cause for pause. In the months since COVID-19 has spread, researchers have launched more than 180 clinical trials of everything from repurposed antivirals and immunomodulators to unproven cell therapies and vitamin C. A further 150 trials are preparing to recruit patients.

Editor’s Note: There have been some drugs that have gotten widespread mainstream press coverage, but there is actually a “torrent” of trials. Here Asher Mullard looks at what having hundreds of operations ongoing means for the effort, with benefits and dangers.

Financial Times ($)
Exclusive: Disappointing results revealed in draft documents published accidentally by WHO.

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Bloomberg
The Harvard University medical professor’s riches are much bigger now, thanks to his stake in Moderna Inc., the U.S. biotechnology firm attempting to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Shares in the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company surged 162% this year through Wednesday, boosting Springer’s net worth to more than $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
A survey of five European countries shows that parents in Spain are the most pro-vaccination (94%) while those in France (73%) are the least in favour of vaccination. One in 30 sets of parents in the UK and Germany are against all vaccinations, no matter which disease they are for. The survey results are part of a study due to be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID)*, by Professor Jean Paul Stahl, University Hospital Grenoble, France, and colleagues.

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