At a time when there is mad rush across the world to develop a vaccine to counter the deadly COVID-19, which has killed over 1,000 people across the world, an American biotech company, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, claims that it had managed to develop a vaccine within three hours after the genetic sequence was made available to the world on January 9, 2020.
"We were able to rapidly construct our vaccine in a matter of about three hours once we had the DNA sequence from the virus available because of the power of our DNA medicine platform," Dr J Joseph Kim, president and CEO, Inovio, told Fox Business.
Using an algorithm to develop the vaccine
Dr Trevor Smith, director of research and development, Inovio, said that the Pennsylvania-based company's San Deigo laboratory had developed an algorithm that helped them develop the vaccine within such a short duration. "We have an algorithm which we designed, and we put the DNA sequence into our algorithm and came up with the vaccine in that short amount of time," explained Dr Smith to CBS8.
It is important to note that the company had also created vaccines for three other deadly diseases—Zika, Ebola and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). "We've done this many, many times before. The most relevant was building our vaccine against the MERS virus, which is a coronavirus in the same family as COVID-19," said Kim.
Human trials could begin in summer
The company says that if everything goes according to plan, it will be able to begin human trials in the US as early as the coming summer. Developing a vaccine at such an unprecedented pace is something the company has experience with.
Less than seven months is all that it took the company to go to human trials from construct design in the US when it developed the vaccine for Zika Virus. "We're planning to beat our own record," said Kim. "Maybe we could do that in close to half that time."
Collaboration across the world to fight the coronavirus
According to Fox Business, the company is collaborating with a Chinese company, Beijing Advaccine, to create the vaccine. The Norway-headquartered, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, has also provided Inovio with a funding of $9 million for the formulation of the vaccine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it is partnering with governments and global experts in order to develop a broader scientific knowledge to understand the coronavirus better, track its spread and its virulence. This will facilitate its effort of providing advice to nations and people on precautionary measures and disrupt the spread of the outbreak.