First COVID-19 vaccines on track to arrive late 2020, faster than thought possible

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Credit: Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei

Three companies with funding from the US government—AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna—are on track to distribute the first commercial batches of their experimental vaccines in late 2020 or early 2021. Those firms are top players in Operation Warp Speed, the US plan to have 300 million doses of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021.

Separately, several groups began clinical trials in June of monoclonal antibodies designed to target and neutralize SARS-CoV-2. Although many older drugs are being repurposed as potential COVID-19 therapies, the antibody trials helmed by Eli Lilly and Company, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and Singapore-based Tychan are the first to test drugs created specifically for treating COVID-19.

The pandemic is pushing drug companies to develop and test their wares at unparalleled speeds. “There is no reason you couldn’t speed up drug development if you really focused on it, and that’s what the pandemic has brought,” says Lisa Kennedy, CEO of the life sciences consulting firm Innopiphany.

Related article:  ‘A huge amount of wasted effort’: Most COVID-19 studies too small to yield real results

Vaccines for COVID-19 are likely to first be available through [emergency use authorization], [FasterCures executive director Esther] Krofah says, and she stresses the need for companies to publish data quickly in such a situation. “It is very important that all of the safety and efficacy data is shared and available publicly so that the public has confidence that this is not being hurried,” she says.

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