The Quest for a Cure – UPDATE #58

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Deepnews Digest #58

The Quest for a Cure – UPDATE

Editor: Christopher Brennan
One of the reasons that I chose to gather articles about coronavirus treatments is that it is sometimes nice to focus on the positive. Last week’s Digest had many pieces on drug treatments for Covid-19, though this week’s largely look at what might be the ultimate goal, a vaccine that prevents people from getting sick in the first place. Though there’s a long road ahead, it’s a “shot in the arm” that researchers around the world are doing their best to help end the current situation.


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Story Source
WSJ ($)
A dozen of America’s top scientists and a collection of billionaires and industry titans say they have the answer to the coronavirus pandemic, and they found a backdoor to deliver their plan to the White House.

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ABC News
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase, it is clear an effective vaccine is urgently needed. With experts predicting 12 to 18 months before a vaccine is available, some scientists are considering unconventional ways to speed up the process. One highly debated method involves injecting healthy adults with live coronavirus.

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Guardian
The stakes could hardly be higher; the prize still tantalisingly out of reach. It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of many millions of people rests on the discovery of a vaccine for Covid-19 – the only sure escape route from the pandemic.

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Reuters
In the race to develop a vaccine to end the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, charities and Big Pharma firms are sinking billions of dollars into bets with extraordinarily low odds of success.

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Hindu Business Line
It has made governments realise that IP could impede their access to medicines, vaccines, tech or reagents

Editor’s Note: An interesting historical fact is that this past Sunday April 26 was the day in 1954 when the polio vaccine started to be mass tested. Inventor Jonas Salk, of course, didn’t patent the vaccine, which changed the way it could be distributed. Here the Hindu Business Line writes from an Indian perspective on issues of intellectual property and what they could mean for a cure for Covid. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Business Live
Are we competing against a virus or against each other? Language from the world’s superpower paints the development of a coronavirus vaccine as a ‘race’ shouldn’t go unchallenged.

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Asian Development Bank
The Asia-Pacific region has the expertise and resources to take a leadership role in not only developing a COVID-19 vaccine but distributing it to those who need it most.

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Rappler
Researchers from the De La Salle University say that once effective treatments against COVID-19 become available, there will be a challenge to produce enough supply to match worldwide demand

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The Hindu
The interest of each and the interests of all now coincide, not only within nations but for all humanity

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Jerusalem Post
As the world ails, the movement against vaccinations is alive and well.

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Deccan Herald
As the world craves for a vaccine, we can discern the desperate scramble among the world’s scientists to develop a wonder drug against coronavirus. Vaccination has always been perceived as affording both individual and community protection. But even if the scientific community comes up with a vaccine, massive public health efforts are often required to control infectious diseases in the most effective manner.

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SciDev
Interruptions to vaccination programmes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could result in new waves of measles or polio outbreaks, health experts warn.

Editor’s Note: Part of the coronavirus recovery will be treating the disease while new problems emerge. Here Laura Mackenzie reports about worries over the drop of routine immunizations in developing countries. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Guardian
In Bill Gates’ eerily prescient 2015 Ted Talk he states that “the greatest risk of global catastrophe … is not missiles but microbes”, which, he predicted, could claim over 10 million lives and wipe $3tn (£2.4tn) off the global economy.

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TIME
Maria Van Kerkhove had never held a World Health Organization (WHO) press briefing before January. Now, people in countries across the globe tune in almost daily to watch the American epidemiologist—along with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Dr. Mike Ryan—break down the latest updates in the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

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Reuters
PARIS – Sanofi confirmed its 2020 outlook on Friday after posting stronger first-quarter results led by its specialty care unit and demand for over-the-counter medicines to treat pain and fever amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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The Conversation
Repurposing existing drugs presents our only hope in the short term but is not without its challenges. Using drugs to treat new diseases for which they are not approved is perfectly legal and more common than you might expect. Before a drug is marketed, it is approved for a specific condition after being rigorously tested and found effective for it.

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Science
The fast-growing list of possible treatments for the novel coronavirus includes an unlikely candidate: famotidine, the active compound in the over-the-counter heartburn drug Pepcid. On 7 April, the first COVID-19 patients at Northwell Health in the New York City area began to receive famotidine intravenously, at nine times the heartburn dose. Unlike other drugs the 23-hospital system is testing, including Regeneron’s sarilumab and Gilead Sciences’s remdesivir, Northwell kept the famotidine study under wraps to secure a research stockpile before other hospitals, or even the federal government, started to buy it. “If we talked about this to the wrong people or too soon, the drug supply would be gone,” says Kevin Tracey, a former neurosurgeon in charge of the hospital system’s research.

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Caixin
The fight against the coronavirus pandemic will yield the fastest-developed and most rapidly distributed vaccine in human history, the head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has said, adding that research into the treatment could bear fruit in as little as 12 months.

Editor’s Note: One of the biggest questions around a coronavirus vaccine is when. Here the Chinese outlet Caixin speaks with the Gates Foundation’s Mark Suzman about whether more money can mean more results faster. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

The Economist ($)
Since the first cases of covid-19 emerged in China in late 2019, the pace of medical innovation has been breathtaking. The efforts of the world’s scientists are already starting to bear fruit. Within less than four months, several trials for promising new vaccines and treatments have begun. These may offer a way out of the covid-19 crisis

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The Conversation
As the southern hemisphere moves closer to winter, virologists are concerned about the upcoming influenza season. This may result in more people needing medical care for flu – including hospitalisation – while the health system is still battling the coronavirus. This may swing the pendulum in favour of SARS-CoV-2 by making it harder to control the pandemic, especially in Africa, which has recorded the lowest number of cases thus far.

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CNN
Before entering the cave, the small team of scientists pull on hazmat suits, face masks and thick gloves to cover every inch of their skin. Contact with bat droppings or urine could expose them to some of the world’s deadliest unknown viruses

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Nature
More than 90 vaccines are being developed against SARS-CoV-2 by research teams in companies and universities across the world. Researchers are trialling different technologies, some of which haven’t been used in a licensed vaccine before. At least six groups have already begun injecting formulations into volunteers in safety trials; others have started testing in animals. Nature’s graphical guide explains each vaccine design.

Editor’s Note: Last week we mentioned that there are many, many trials going on. This piece from Nature, one of several that also appeared in our research-focused “Future of Medicine” newsletter, provides a helpful guide on different types of vaccines and how they work. -Christopher Brennan, Editor

The Hill
Scientists examining the coronavirus and the impacts of COVID-19 on the human body are scrambling to understand whether people are at risk of infection even if they have already contracted and recovered from the virus.

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USA Today
The Seattle volunteers who got shots in the first trial of a possible coronavirus vaccine are now getting the second shot — an indicator the early trial is progressing well.

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Washington Post
Richard Yetter Chappell is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Miami. Peter Singer is professor of bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.

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