International collaboration, fast action, and mRNA platform technology led to phase 3 trials in record time—without compromise of safety standards.
In just 7 months, global investigators stand on the precipice of phase 3 data for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines. The feat of expediency and—thus far mostly—effectiveness observed in the development process amid a pandemic is unprecedented in medicine.
But it’s that very speed, size, and scope which has concerned large fragments of the population who are expected to eventually buy in to the first regulated vaccines.
This week, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), joined Lungcast, a respiratory health podcast series from sister publication HCPLive® and the American Lung Association (ALA).
Among a bevy of COVID-19 topics he discussed on the episode, Fauci first and foremost touched on the vaccine development process—one which may be burdened by a misleading program name and stigma around vaccines overall.
“With all due respect to my colleagues, I never liked the name ‘Warp Speed,’” Fauci said. “It has a connotation of almost reckless speed, and it’s not. It’s really the advances of platform technology that have allowed us to do in a matter of months that normally takes us years to do.”
Complementary to the potential of platform technology was the early recognition from himself and peers that it needed to be prioritized just as the virus began to spread in January.
“The Chinese published the sequence of SARS-CoV-2 in a public database on January 10,” he explained. “I got my team together on the 11th (of January) and said, ‘We’ve got to partner with Moderna and put this in an mRNA platform.’ By the 15th, we started doing it. Sixty-five days later, we were in a phase 1 trial. And 7 months later, we’re in a phase 3 trial. That process would normally take a few years, but we didn’t compromise anything.”
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