As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to skyrocket, healthcare researchers around the world are working tirelessly to discover new life-saving medical innovations.
The projects these companies are working on can be organized into three distinct groups:
- Diagnostics: Quickly and effectively detecting the disease in the first place
- Treatments: Alleviating symptoms so people who have disease experience milder symptoms, and lowering the overall mortality rate
- Vaccines: Preventing transmission by making the population immune to COVID-19
Today’s graphics provide an in-depth look at who’s in the innovation race to defeat the virus, and they come to us courtesy of Artis Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on life sciences and tech investments.
Editor’s note: R&D is moving fast on COVID-19, and the situation is quite fluid. While today’s post is believed to be an accurate snapshot of all innovations and developments listed by WHO and FDA as of March 30, 2020, it is possible that more data will become available.
Knowledge is Power
Testing rates during this pandemic have been a point of contention. Without widespread testing, it has been tough to accurately track the spread of the virus, as well as pin down important metrics such as infectiousness and mortality rates. Inexpensive test kits that offer quick results will be key to curbing the outbreak.
Here are the companies and institutions developing new tests for COVID-19:
The ultimate aim of companies like Abbott and BioFire Defense is to create a test that can produce accurate results in as little as a few minutes.
In the Trenches With Coronavirus
While the majority of people infected with COVID-19 only experience minor symptoms, the disease can cause severe issues in some cases – even resulting in death. Most of the forms of treatment being pursued fall into one of two categories:
- Treating respiratory symptoms – especially the inflammation that occurs in severe cases
- Antiviral growth – essentially stopping viruses from multiplying inside the human body
Here are the companies and institutions developing new treatment options for COVID-19:
A wide range of players are in the race to develop treatments related to COVID-19. Pharma and healthcare companies are in the mix, as well as universities and institutes.
One surprising name on the list is Fujifilm. The Japanese company’s stock recently shot up on the news that Avigan, a decades-old flu drug developed through Fujifilm’s healthcare subsidiary, might be effective at helping coronavirus patients recover. The Japanese government’s stockpile of the drug is reportedly enough to treat two million people.
The progress that is perhaps being watched the closest by the general public is the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Creating a safe vaccine for a new illness is no easy feat. Thankfully, rapid progress is being made for a variety of reasons, including China’s efforts to sequence the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2 and to share that information with research groups around the world.
Another factor contributing to the unprecedented speed of development is the fact that coronaviruses were already on the radar of health science researchers. Both SARS and MERS were caused by coronaviruses, and even though vaccines were shelved once those outbreaks were contained, learnings can still be applied to defeating COVID-19.
One of the most promising leads on a COVID-19 vaccine is mRNA-1273. This vaccine, developed by Moderna Therapeutics, is being developed with extreme urgency, skipping straight into human trials before it was even tested in animals. If all goes well with the trials currently underway in Washington State, the company hopes to have an early version of the vaccine ready by fall 2020. The earliest versions of the vaccine would be made available to at-risk groups such as healthcare workers.
Further down the pipeline are 15 types of subunit vaccines. This method of vaccination uses a fragment of a pathogen, typically a surface protein, to trigger an immune response, teaching the body’s immune system how to fight off the disease without actually introducing live pathogens.
No Clear Finish Line
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for solving this pandemic.
A likely scenario is that teams of researchers around the world will come up with solutions that will incrementally help stop the spread of the virus, mitigate symptoms for those infected, and help lower the overall death toll. As well, early solutions rushed to market will need to be refined over the coming months.
We can only hope that the hard lessons learned from fighting COVID-19 will help stop a future outbreak in its tracks before it becomes a pandemic. For now, those of us on the sideline can only do our best to flatten the curve.