Growing fear of MERS virus increases urgency of researchers
- The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) first appeared in 2012. Since then there have been 614 reported infections and 181 related deaths.
- Until May 2014, all cases outside of the Middle East were in Europe, Asia or Africa; however, the first cases in the United States were recently reported.
- NIH-funded researchers are focusing on drugs that are already FDA-approved, however, the biotech company, NovaVax is working on developing a vaccine using a novel development technique.
Since it was first identified in 2012, MERS has killed 181 people. It is highly contagious and rapidly becoming a public health concern, especially after the first cases were identified in the United States this month. One of the main challenges is that there is very little market incentive for companies to focus on developing a vaccine. Historically, it takes 10 years and $1 billion to develop a vaccine. Nonetheless, there are publicly funded researchers at work, as well as the biotech company NovaVax.
NovaVax received the genetic sequence for MERS in March 2013. Instead of copying the viral DNA using bacteria, the company’s scientists synthesized the DNA chemically and developed an experimental vaccine. Early testing shows that the vaccine generates anti-MERS antibodies in mice. Not only could NovaVax’s vaccine represent a clinical breakthrough for addressing MERS, but it may also augur the beginning of a new development paradigm for vaccines.
- www.worldpharmanews.com Screen of existing drugs finds compounds active against MERS coronavirus
- www.technologyreview.com We Need a MERS Vaccine, but High Costs, Regulations Make One Unlikely