Since the outbreak of coronavirus, major pharmaceutical companies, governments and universities have begun the search for a vaccine, including here in the Netherlands.
The President of the EU commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that a coronavirus vaccine would likely be developed by the end of the year which made headlines in several Dutch news sources including NOS. This might be a little optimistic, de Volkskrant discusses.
But nonetheless, many pharmaceutical companies are currently investigating the possibilities. In general, vaccines need to be extensively tested to ensure that they do not do harm rather than good, this is why the process takes so long.
The WHO reports that approximately 70 companies around the world are developing vaccines. These companies are based in 19 different countries. Around three-quarters of the vaccine developers are commercial companies. The remaining quarter comprises of universities and governments, according to de Volkskrant. Companies in China and the US have already begun human trials.
Here in the Netherlands, several organisations are doing their part:
Leiden biotech company Janssen
Janssen, a pharmaceutical company based in Leiden is currently on the frontier of the Dutch initiative to develop a vaccine. The company is a subsidiary of the bigger Johnson & Johnson, which is also currently in the process of developing an Ebola vaccine. With experience in combatting viral infections and other serious diseases, the company is well equipped in their research and has received significant funding from other countries. Johnson&Johnson’s reputation makes them a viable candidate for the development of an effective vaccine.
Over 100 people in the Leiden subsidiary are working on a coronavirus vaccine and they aim to be able to test it in September of this year.
Leiden University Medical Centre
Research teams lead by Marjolein Kikkert and Eric Snijder (who began the LUMC crowdfunding campaign for research into coronavirus) are also working closely with Janssen to test immune responses to vaccine candidates.
Currently, the teams are working to see whether vaccine-induced antibodies are able to overcome or fight the virus. But the teams are also researching antiviral medication. Funding is granted to them by the EU.
Erasmus MC Rotterdam
Virologist Bart Haagman from the Medical Centre in Rotterdam has a research group consisting of 10 people who aim to develop a vaccine for coronavirus in a year, or a year and a half.
Haagman’s research team is testing to see whether other vaccines can be used to combat coronavirus such as the smallpox vaccine.
With their vaccine, the team would like to fasten the body’s immune response, meaning that the immune system would react faster. As of now, Haagman tells AD.nl that the body’s system takes longer to respond to coronavirus. Therefore, a vaccine to speed up this process would aid significantly in helping the body ward it off.
UMC Utrecht and Radbaud University Medical Centre
Researchers Mihai Netea and Marc Bonten from UMC Utrecht and Radbaud University Medical Centre are currently studying whether an old research tuberculosis (TB) vaccine could be used against coronavirus.
The BCG vaccine has been around for nearly a century. Thus it will likely not result in serious side effects. In the Netherlands, TB is virtually nonexistent- but around the world it is administered to millions of people.
Who will develop the first vaccine?
As of now, it’s still unclear who will be the first to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Companies in China and the US have already begun human trials — but of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean their vaccines will be up and running by the end of the year.
But the question isn’t even about the first vaccine — it’s possible that there are several vaccines on the market that can be used for multiple viruses. So if more than one vaccine to combat coronavirus is developed, it’s a good thing.
The Netherlands still has a pretty good chance of being the first. And even if not, any advancements are beneficial to combatting the spread of COVID-19 as well as other viral infections.
But in the end regardless of who is first, what is most important is that advancements are made in the first place, since the entire global community is in this together.
Have you been following developments of a vaccine from the Netherlands or in other countries? Let us know in the comments below.
Feature Image: DutchReview/Canva