The importance of cooperation in finding a vaccine

There are currently more than 150 coronavirus vaccines being developed around the world, and hopes for the rapid, mass availability of a viable product are high.

Heavily publicised advances from some companies are very encouraging. However, we must remain cautiously optimistic.

The prospect of bringing a drug from inception to mass market in less than 18 months is unprecedented. Indeed, the mumps vaccine is, as yet, the fastest ever approved, yet it still took four years of research and testing before being licensed in 1967.

As the rates of COVID deaths and infections continue to rise, there is huge media and public expectation of a return to normal life in a few short months.

For this to happen, there is a growing argument for improved and increased cooperation between the key players to ensure a path forward that gives equal consideration to speed and safety in finding a vaccine.

This is especially relevant when we consider that a coronavirus vaccine is brand-new territory for those pursuing it. No medically proven predecessor exists, despite two viral cousins of it appearing in 2002 (SARS) and 2012 (MERS).

This message of greater cooperation was shared recently by a leading regulator in an interview with editors at the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Janet Woodcock, MD, was in conversation with NEJM’s editor-in-chief, Eric Rubin, MD, PhD, deputy editor Lindsey Baden, MD, and executive managing editor Stephen Morrisey, PhD, Woodcock shared her unique perspective as a regulator-turned-drug developer during the pandemic, stating:

“I’ve presented the data on the worldwide trials and the lack of actionable trials, and I think everyone is on the same page about this and there will be an opportunity for…the medical ecosystem worldwide to come together and say ‘We can do better.’ We can have a more coordinated and cohesive response.

“For a long time, I’ve been a proponent of master protocols and platform trials. I think we need to have things like that setup and ready to go. They can certainly build really valuable information about the standard of care during the pandemic. And we also need some agreement amongst investigators.”

The road to ending the pandemic could well be a long one. The sharing of resources and insights will be invaluable in speeding up that journey.

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