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Covid- 19: the race for a vaccine

Person wearing face mask in Covid-19 pandemic

• How long will it take to develop a vaccine?
• What’s the impact of the pandemic on the biotech sector?

With vast swathes of the world in lockdown, the one question on everyone’s minds is how long will it take to develop a vaccine against COVID-19? The Association of Investment Companies (AIC) has spoken to investment company and VCT managers about the prospects for a vaccine and how their portfolio companies are contributing to the fight against coronavirus. Below are the details they have reported.

What are the prospects for a vaccine?
Paul Major, Manager of BB Healthcare Trust, said: “We are optimistic that a vaccine will be in commercial production within 18 months. There are more than 40 companies and groups working on a variety of approaches and we are mindful of the swine flu pandemic of 2009, when a vaccine was delivered within around six months from the WHO declaring it an emergency situation.”

James Douglas and Gareth Powell, Co-Managers of Polar Capital Global Healthcare Trust, said: “As of 20 March, there were two vaccine candidates already in clinical trials and another 42 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical development. There are some hopes that we may see initial clinical data before year-end but it is likely that it will take a good 12 to 18 months for larger clinical studies to read out for any of these vaccine candidates.

“Even with some positive data, manufacturing hundreds of millions of doses of a new vaccine for everyone will be a significant challenge – it is likely that initial vaccine doses will be given to healthcare workers. That said, there are a number of collaborative efforts emerging to solve the manufacturing issue with governments playing a key role. For this reason, the commercial implications are difficult to assess and, in most cases, projects are being advanced as quickly as possible without much thought about the profit to be gained.”

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