COVID-19 update: German biotech company to start human trials for vaccine

German biotech company to start human trials for COVID-19 vaccine

As COVID-19 death tolls continue to climb higher, companies and governments are scrambling to develop a final solution. The latest development on this front comes from German biotech company BioNTech that received the green light from the German government to start human trials on the vaccine it’s currently creating.

The trial will involve around 200 people, with more candidates added in the second stage, including those categorized as high risks. Under the program dubbed BNT162, BioNTech is developing four COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with pharma juggernaut Pfizer.

BioNTech is one of several companies racing to create a COVID-19 vaccine for the novel coronavirus that has killed over 180,000 people as of this writing. Despite these efforts, however, experts warned that enthusiasm should be tempered as this may create false hopes for people manning the helm.

A distorted expectation

Just two weeks ago, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University Sarah Gilbert told The Times that a COVID-19 vaccine could come out as early as September. That’s a far earlier expectation than what other researchers are saying, who gave an estimate of around 12 to 18 months.

“Such comments make having a vaccine, and having one in this timeframe seem a foregone conclusion. Such a conclusion then distorts policymakers’, investors’ and developers’ decisions and expectations,” Geoffrey Porges of SVB Leerink said.

Porges’ advice is sound, given that it usually takes years for a vaccine to be developed. Indeed, a 12-18 month vaccine for a new pathogen will be the fastest development seen in this field.

Companies to resume operation despite the outbreak

German biotech company to start human trials for COVID-19 vaccine

Some companies are already preparing to have their employees go back to work despite the spread of the outbreak. Boeing, for instance, is gearing up to resume its operation, prompting fears among its workers.

“Part of me feels thankful that we’re still employed, but the other part of me is kind of scared,” said a Boeing employee who has asthma. “It’s just scary to me because I know what it feels like to not be able to breathe. The way this disease gets you, you just basically suffocate.”

A dozen Boeing workers have already been infected by the virus in the Puget Sound area, with one succumbing to the disease. But the company assures its employees that safety measures will be put in place, and protective gear will be available once operations resume.

Of course, this doesn’t allay the apprehension felt by the workers, especially since Boeing shouldn’t have been considered as an essential company in the first place. Other companies are also trying to get back on track, with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon suggesting the month of June as the earliest timeline.


Photos courtesy of Unsplash

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