The hunt for the vaccine to stop Covid-19Rete 4 – Quarto Grado – 27th March

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GIANLUIGI NUZZI:

Yes indeed my friends, just think, worldwide there are 400 drugs being worked on in different universities, different hospitals, by groups of academics, researchers, scientists, all working to find a solution. Now I am going to show you something important because, look, there are two small vials in this photo. I don’t want to oversell this, but it is perhaps from these vials that salvation may come for all of us, because they could be the vials that contain…none other than the vaccine. Or rather, that study, those molecules, that substance, they are all moving closer to becoming the vaccine that could save us one day soon. Let’s take a look.

REPORTER:

It is a real race against time, the hunt for the vaccine to stop Covid-19, and it is precisely in these laboratories in Pomezia, on the outskirts of Rome, that a pool of scientists have reached the finish line. Here is a preview photo of the first vial of vaccine; it will be trialed in the United Kingdom, despite the fact that hundreds of letters have been received from Italians wanting to volunteer themselves as guinea pigs for the vaccine.

PIERO DI LORENZO:

10 days ago we went into production. Our vaccine is the synthesis of 2 strands of expertise; the first relates to Coronavirus, which the Jenner Institute has had for 15 years now, and the second to the Adenovirus, which is our expertise, as 5 years ago the Ebola vaccine was produced by our laboratories.

REPORTER:

It is a vaccine that is predominantly born out of a combination of 2 others, but what was the starting point for the researchers to achieve this result? And how does the vaccine work?

PIERO DI LORENZO:

Our partners quickly synthesized the gene of the spike protein. We insert that weakened gene into the body, the body recognizes a foreign body and reacts by producing antibodies which will be vital if the real unweakened gene comes along.

VOICE OF DEPARTMENT NARRATOR

So it works like this: the Covid-19 gene, which has been weakened in the laboratory and injected into our body, prepares the body to counteract the real one that is in circulation. In Italy therefore, we are in the preliminary study phase, whereas in China a recombinant vaccine is already being tested on 108 volunteer patients who are in good health and range in age between 18 and 60. Their testimony shows how much the desire to combat the virus outweighs the fear of possible side effects.

CHINESE VOLUNTEER 1 VOICEOVER:

There are so many health workers all over the country fighting this outbreak on the front line. As a university student is there something I can do?

CHINESE VOLUNTEER 2 VOICEOVER:

Vaccination is a form of protection that we will need first. Being a guinea pig today can help launch the vaccine sooner and thus make a contribution to the country.

REPORTER:

But in which other countries is scientific research achieving a similar result?

PIERO DI LORENZO:

In the United States they have already tested the vaccine they have developed; in Israel there is already a biotech company that is familiar with the Coronavirus family and they are working on this. In Italy it is us, in partnership with the Jenner Institute at Oxford University in England. In the Netherlands there’s another company that has reached a good stage and in Germany there is another.

REPORTER:

In the biopharmaceutical company in Tubingen, Germany, and in the Research Institute of Galilee in northern Israel, the race to produce a vaccine is following different procedures but with the same urgency and tenacity.

DAVID ZIGDOM:

We still need a few more weeks to have the vaccine. After we’ve developed the vaccine it needs to go to pre-clinical trials; how long these take varies, depending on the regulations that establish how many tests are necessary. Only after that will it be possible to test the vaccine on humans. In all, this entire process will take a few months.

REPORTER:

This length of time seems endless during the emergency. But less if compared to 15 years, which is the average amount of time needed to produce a vaccine. From the study phase to reaching the pharmacy counter.

PIERO DI LORENZO:

In May we are thinking of experimenting on mice, by the end of June we’ll be ready to try it out on humans.

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