An ‘unprecedented’ effort to find a coronavirus vaccine has over 100 horses in the race

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The gradual relaxation of coronavirus restrictions is stoking hopes for an economic rebound, with the biotechnology industry riding a wave of expectations in the hunt for an effective COVID-19 treatment.

Vaccines are perceived as key to ending the restraints on work and life that have decimated the global economy, and returning to some sense of normalcy. Worldwide, there are nearly 5 million positive cases and over 300,000 have been killed by the virus.

With so much at stake, the global pipeline has become an intense space race for the new era. Nations are locked in an intense effort to demonstrate their biotech capabilities in the worldwide fight against COVID-19.

In collaboration with branches of the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institute of Health (NIH), small and large drug companies have been working on vaccines.

For now, the furthest along are Moderna (MRNA) and Pfizer (PFE), both of which are using messenger RNA technology— a newer technology that doesn’t exist in the current drug market. Both have entered human clinical trials. Abroad, all eyes are on China’s CanSino, and a project underway at Oxford University in the U.K.

Currently, “there are at least a hundred horses in the race, and we’ve got some leaders up front,” Marc Poznansky, the director of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Yahoo Finance recently.

He added that it was “unprecedented to have that many platforms at play putting a product into testing to try to get to first in human” trials.

This picture taken on May 23, 2020 shows a laboratory technician holding a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi. - After conclusive results on mice, Thai scientists from the centre have begun testing a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate on monkeys, the phase before human trials. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

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This picture taken on May 23, 2020 shows a laboratory technician holding a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi. – After conclusive results on mice, Thai scientists from the centre have begun testing a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate on monkeys, the phase before human trials. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

The World Health Organization is tracking the growing field, where less than a dozen of which have entered clinical trials. Some are being developed in coordination with governments, while others are through industry or academic collaboration.

The expectations have placed an unprecedented demand on a “pandemic market” that could eventually be valued anywhere between $10 to $30 billion, analysts at Morgan Stanley said last week. But an effective treatment is unlikely until the first half of 2021 at the earliest, with many health experts cautioning that aggressive development timelines are “aspirational” at best.

Still, pharmaceutical companies are repurposing existing drugs and trying to find treatments for those currently sick with the virus, with investors trying to determine the winners and losers of this high stakes race.

A ‘Warp Speed’ race

There are over 1.5 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

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There are over 1.5 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

The world’s two largest economies are engaged in fierce competition to find a vaccine. China is moving to bolster its nascent biotech industry and expand its reach globally, while the U.S. is fighting to balance urgency with safety and serving the needs at home first.

In order to winnow down the widening field of vaccine candidates, the U.S. has rolled out Operation Warp Speed, using $3 billion appropriated by Congress to fund vaccine development. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working closely with drug companies to follow expedited timelines for clinical trials, as drug companies aim to produce billions of doses as soon as a candidate is viable.

This article was originally published on finance.yahoo.com/news/.

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