COVID and Unmet Needs
SARS-CoV-2 is a zoonotic strain of coronaviruses that was introduced to human populations in the Chinese province of Hubei in late 2019. The spread of infection has since been driven by human-to-human transmission resulting in the 2020-2021 pandemic.
As a result of unprecedented public and private sector initiatives, as well as the advent of mRNA and viral vector technologies, new vaccines against COVID-19 disease received regulatory clearance in multiple countries in record time. Still, a multi-year track record of safety and efficacy of these new platforms has yet to be established with vulnerable populations, especially those most directly impacted by the current pandemic – the elderly. Additionally, mRNA vaccines require expensive supply chain support, and there may be certain limitations to the viral vector-based products. Coupled with new mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus identified in South Africa and the UK for which the new vaccines may or may not provide robust protection, there may be the need for traditional subunit vaccines or virus-like particle alternatives, particularly constructs that can be cost-effectively designed, prototyped, and mass produced in rapid fashion.