Opinion: What efforts are out there to combat COVID-19?

Luka Turanjanin, Sectional Editor

The novel coronavirus COVID-19, has spread drastically across the world since the first reports of the disease emerged in Wuhan, China in January. With now more than half a million people sick and thirty thousand deaths internationally, countries across the globe are racing to develop treatments for the coronavirus, and potentially, a vaccine.

In the United States, now home to 100,000 cases of the disease, the most of any country, researchers from coast to coast have been experimenting with how to develop methods for treating the disease, or better off creating a vaccine. The COVID-19 disease currently has no specific treatment or cure. 

In New York City, researchers have started to draw the blood from survivors of the coronavirus. These people who have recovered have developed antibodies that were made to fight the disease. With the blood, the plasma (the liquid part of the blood containing antibodies), will be isolated.

These antibodies will then be transferred to other people’s bodies in a process called “convalescent plasma therapy.” This therapy is still highly experimental, but preliminary research in China suggests that it can help a small amount of people recover. This process has been done before when trying to combat the SARS outbreak back in 2003. 

Michael Joyner, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, has been helping to lead what is called the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Joyner highlighted a few benefits that would come from this project.

“If we can just keep a small fraction of people headed to the ICU out of the ICU, we’ll be beneficial to the whole ecosystem,” Joyner told Buzzfeed News. 

This process using recovered plasma can be used to either protect people from getting infected, or boost the immune systems of those who are already sick.

The procedure of drawing recovered patients’ blood has already started in New York, and soon in dozens of medical centers across the United States. 

In San Diego, two biotech companies have been going all-out in the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. Arcturus Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceutical are the two companies at hand when it comes to making a vaccine.

Inovio has made a grandiose amount of progress for developing a vaccination. They first received the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 on January 10 from China, and the company managed to create a vaccine design within hours. Human clinical trials are set to begin in early April now that the company was able to manufacture and test the vaccine.

Arcturus has also been working toward developing an easy-to-manufacture, single-shot vaccine. In an interview with NBC, Joseph Payne, chief executive officer of Arcturus, said that the vaccine is supposed to be effective in very low doses. Payne went as far enough as to say that 10 grams of the vaccine could be used to vaccinate the entire country of Singapore.

The vaccine’s concentrated nature allows for it to be easily transportable and easy to make. It also could become more efficient according to Payne if the vaccine was single-shot only, instead of a base vaccine with a booster.

“The demand for this vaccine, the world has never seen anything like it,” Payne also told NBC.

Even though efforts are coming well in place, a vaccine for the general public won’t be ready to go for at least a year and a half. This is due to regulations that require testing and trials.