After US, China and Israel, scientists in Singapore are on the front-line to combat COVID-19

  • Singapore scientists to track the genetic changes that speeds testing of COVID-19 vaccines

  • Singapore is the third country, outside China to culture the deadly virus

The deadly Coronavirus has killed 18,901 people and infected 421,792 individuals globally till now, but still international scientists are struggling to find an effective drug or vaccine to help the COVID-19 patients. While the US and China received a green flag to conduct the human trial of a potential vaccine, Singapore also joined the race to develop a vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus.

The Singaporean scientists recently revealed that they have developed a way to track the genetic changes that fast tracks testing of the Coronavirus vaccines.

Counties race to find a cure

Vaccine (Representational picture) Pixabay

It should be noted that the COVID-19 has already claimed thousands of lives and despite the lockdown measures countries like the US and Italy are still struggling to bring down the number of infection and death cases.

But in Seattle, US has already started the clinical trial of a potential vaccine called mRNA-1273. Meanwhile, China, which recently said that the government will lift the lockdown in Wuhan on April 8 as new cases dropped to zero for five consecutive days from March 19, has started the first phase of a clinical trial for a novel coronavirus vaccine. It should be noted that 108 participants, residents of Wuhan, aged between 18 and 60, will be tested in three groups and given different dosages.

Researchers in Iran have also mentioned that they have developed a drug combination to heal the lesions in the lungs of COVID-19 patients. As per Xinhua, Iran's head of the scientific committee to combat COVID-19, Mostafa Qanei said the "complex" is the combination of three drugs which could reduce the period of hospitalisation of the patients and added that after applying the drug 40 percent of the patients left the hospital.

In February, it was revealed that Israel's Institute for Biological Research (IBR) is in the final process of developing the COVID-19 vaccine, using their expertise in the past to develop a vaccine against avian Coronavirus Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV). But, the country's Defence Ministry stated: "There has been no breakthrough in the efforts of the biological institute to find a vaccine for the Coronavirus or to develop testing kits. The institute's work is conducted according to an orderly work plan and it will take time. If and when there will be something to report, it will be done in an orderly fashion."

Singapore joined the race

Duke-NUS Medical School
Duke-NUS Medical School Duke-NUS Medical School Instagram

The scientists at Singapore's Duke-NUS Medical School said that their technique needs just days to evaluate potential vaccines provided by Arcturus Therapeutics, which is an American biotech firm the institution has partnered with for the trials. Ooi Eng Eong, deputy director of the school's emerging infectious diseases program said, "You can know from the way the genes change - what genes are turned on, what is turned off."

The assessment of such changes triggered by a vaccine allows the researchers to determine its effectiveness and side effects, instead of relying only on responses from humans who receive it, said Ooi Eng Eong, deputy director of the school's emerging infectious diseases program. As per Ooi, within a week they will start to test the vaccine on mice and expected a human trial in the second half of the year.

It should be mentioned that in a key step towards developing diagnosis methods, the Duke-NUS researchers helped to culture the new Coronavirus in January after the Republic reported its first confirmed infection case. It made Singapore the third country, outside China to culture the deadly virus, which has already infected 558 people and killed two in the city-state since the outbreak in December.

Another first was a test to detect Novel Coronavirus antibodies even in those patients who had already recovered, crucial in containment efforts that have won global praise for the Southeast Asian country. From discovery to licensing, vaccine development in the past could take over 10 years, but as per Ooi, science can now offer a much faster response.

Related topics : Coronavirus