Health/Science

Coronavirus vaccine developed four years ago but never tested due to lack of funds

Vice President Mike Pence meets with The President’s Coronavirus Taskforce Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, at the Department of Human and Health Services in Washington, DC. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

(USA Features) Researchers in Texas developed a vaccine designed to protect against a deadly coronavirus strain four years ago, but had to cease working on the project because they didn’t have the funds to test on humans.

The vaccine was developed in 2016, according to NBC News, more than 10 years after a viral strain of SARS had killed more than 770 people in China. The SARS virus is an earlier version of COVID-19, the strain now spreading around the world.

“We tried like heck to see if we could get investors or grants to move this into the clinic,” said Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital. “But we just could not generate much interest.”

The SARS vaccine, created in collaboration with researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, now sits in a freezer, the network reported.

After the initial SARS outbreak, another coronavirus — MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome — spread for a time. But once both viruses petered out, interest in a vaccine waned.

“We could have had this ready to go and been testing the vaccine’s efficacy at the start of this new outbreak in China,” said Hotez, who believes the vaccine could provide cross-protection against the new coronavirus. “There is a problem with the ecosystem in vaccine development, and we’ve got to fix this.”

Hotez is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Thursday.

“It’s tragic that we won’t have a vaccine ready for this epidemic,” Hotez said. “Practically speaking, we’ll be fighting these outbreaks with one hand tied behind our backs.”

Also, he told the Houston Chronicle: “In some ways this virus is tougher than Ebola. Unless you were taking care of someone dying of Ebola or who’d died of it, you pretty much weren’t going to get Ebola.”


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