Scientists launch R&D plan to develop broad vaccine for coronaviruses
Health Policy Watch (2/21)
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy last week announced the launch of a roadmap outlining a detailed strategy for the development of broadly protective and widely suitable vaccines to address future COVID-19 variants and other coronaviruses. The roadmap lays out the need for five broad and intersectional streams of work from virology to financing that will be necessary to break down the siloes of current vaccine development to achieve better coordination, accountability, and access. The initiative comes as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the third time in two decades that a coronavirus has become a public health crisis.
Third patient free of HIV after receiving virus-resistant cells
A man in Germany has become at least the third person living with HIV formally declared HIV-free after undergoing a procedure in 2013 to replace his cancerous bone marrow cells with donor stem cells that contained a mutation making them effectively HIV-resistant. There remain questions about the full effects of the transplant and the factors behind the successful elimination of HIV in the body, even after follow-up studies. Experts say it is unlikely this procedure would ever be rolled out widely in people without leukemia due to high risk of a person rejecting donor marrow, but other ongoing and planned studies are looking at the potential of genetically modifying a patient’s own stem cells to include the HIV-resistant mutation.
Science falls behind as syphilis stages another comeback
The United States is seeing a concerning rise in cases of syphilis, which has seen various cycles of rises and declines over the past century. There are few researchers that study syphilis, and the development of new diagnostics, treatments, and preventive tools has proved challenging because of past inability to grow the fragile Treponema pallidum bacterium that causes the disease in a lab and because of the virus’s ability to evolve resistance to antibiotics. A new technique that allows for lab-grown bacteria along with recent, promising studies of treatments and diagnostics for the disease provide hope. However, there is wide agreement that a vaccine is needed to eliminate the disease and the potential of resistance, and researchers are far from introducing a potential candidate.