Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
In the midst of many suffering and death during the historic COVID-19 pandemic, outstanding success stories stand out. Developing a range of highly effective vaccines against previously severely unknown virus, acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in less than 1year from an unprecedented virus identification in Vaccine history The question is often asked, how could such extraordinary success be achieved in such a short time frame, when determining the timeframe for other vaccines for years if less than a decade? In fact, concerns about this truncated timeline have contributed to the reluctance of getting these vaccines. What’s particularly unsatisfactory is the start of the timeline for the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, not January 10, 2020, when the Chinese release the viral genetic sequence. But it started decades earlier without getting any attention.
Two activities preceded successful vaccination of COVID-19: the use of highly modifiable vaccine platforms such as RNA (others) and the adaptation of structural biology tools to design stimulating agents (immunogens). The RNA guidelines have evolved over the years due to the ingenuity of individual scientists, including Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó, and the intense efforts of several biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
The discovery of multi-platform-optimized immunogens (messenger RNA, etc.) used for the COVID-19 vaccine is the result of a collaboration between different scientific specializations. At the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (VRC) Vaccine Research Center, a group led by Peter Kwong has been using the tool to design structured vaccines for years to determine the optimal structure of the upper trimmer protein. The viral surface (envelope protein) that helps HIV bind to cells and eventually stimulate the production of antibodies against many strains of the HIV virus. This sophisticated approach has yet to lead to successful HIV vaccination. But it was of interest to another VRC researcher, Barney Graham, who was interested in creating a vaccine for the respiratory synchronous virus (RSV) .Graham joined Jason McLellan (from Kwong’s team) to adjust the injection method. Structural RSV vaccine.They identified the structure of the viral spike protein preparations as highly immune and mutated to stabilize that structure for successful use as an immunogen. This is a major step forward in making a successful RSV vaccine.
Then, researchers and VRC colleagues made a breakthrough for RSV.Graham’s team, including Kizzmekia Corbett and collaborators in McLellan and Andrew Ward’s lab, took this approach to stabilizing the mutation of the protein. Fusion to work with proteins that block coronaviruses That causes Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) .So, when the SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequence was available, Graham’s team wasted no time to join. With long-time collaborators at Moderna to develop an RNA vaccine using a stabilized and pre-immune protein. Pfizer and the biotech at Karikó are also using the RNA platform she and Weissman have, the integrity and the immunogens designed by Graham to develop the RNA vaccine. Graham, among other vaccine platforms developed over the years to produce the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.
The new immunogen-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccine has quickly moved to clinical trials. Several of these vaccines were tested in Phase 3 efficacy trials during a time when the level of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the community was very high, enabling the end of efficacy of more than 90% of the vaccine to be reached in a timely manner. The speed and efficacy of developing these highly effective vaccines and their potential to save millions of lives are due to the extraordinary multidisciplinary efforts involved in basic, pre-clinical and medical sciences. That is a work in progress – out of the spotlight for decades. Exposing the COVID-19 Epidemic When the stories and narratives of this outbreak are written, it is important not to forget this history as we are once again reminded of the social value of supporting scientific organizations. Our science is sustainable and stable.