Minute to Understanding
May 27, 2020
Accelerating vaccine development
Traditional vaccine development is slow by design with extensive scientific review, rigorous preclinical testing, and at least three phases of progressive clinical trials. Historically, it takes between five and 10 years and over $1 billion to develop a vaccine and to make sure it's safe and effective. And that's before making enough vaccine for everyone and administering it to patients around the world.
So how do vaccines work? And how do we speed up the process?
When a virus like SARS-CoV-2 enters your body, your immune system responds by producing specific antibodies to both neutralize the current infection
and watch out for that virus's characteristic pattern, should it ever reappear.
Traditional vaccines use all or part of killed or weakened virus to teach your immune system to recognize and act on those specific characteristics without the virus ever entering the body. Because these vaccines start as live pathogen they require extensive biosafety facilities and significant time and cost to develop.
New vaccines are taking a different approach.
Using advanced sequencing technologies, scientists are able to obtain and analyze the genetic code of a new virus within hours of discovering it. After isolating the code for the virus's
specific recognizable proteins, scientists can create a template for that protein, a short, single stranded sequence of nucleotides called messenger RNA. If the mRNA sequence can be delivered to enough cells, they will create the viral proteins right within the cell, giving your immune system the means to recognize and fight any virus with these characteristics.
RNA vaccines can be made in large quantities in a matter of days at relatively low cost. However, they expire quickly and must be stored at extremely low temperatures, making distribution difficult.
Despite these challenges and the need for more testing, RNA and other novel vaccine methods have the potential to significantly
accelerate vaccine development, and by refining the process for preclinical testing and clinical trials, we will soon be much more agile in the fight against an infectious disease.
Video: Why is temperature tracking important?
This coronavirus animation explains how tracking your body temperature can provide early warnings of fever and infection. You'll also learn how to track your temperature and safely get back to work.
COVID-19 update: Where we are and where we need to be
JAX President and CEO Edison T. Liu, M.D., discussed the basic scientific facts of COVID-19, our journey toward a vaccine, potential long-term effects of the virus, and the post-COVID-19 world.
Help for heroes
Coronavirus testing at The Jackson Laboratory helps officials track and prevent transmission of COVID-19. To date, JAX has processed more than one million tests.
Life-preserver: COVID-19 testing to keep Maine Maritime students safe
As the academic year starts up across the country, The Jackson Laboratory has partnered with a variety of educational institutions, including Maine Maritime Academy, to provide COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff.
Protecting West Hartford's first responders
Rapid COVID-19 testing at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine is keeping West Hartford fire, rescue, and EMT teams healthy so they can safely help others.
University of Maine System partners with JAX for COVID-19 testing services
Testing protocols are likely to include screening thousands of out-of-state and resident hall students, identifying and isolating incidents of COVID-19 infection and protecting at-risk populations before classes begin.