SARS-CoV-2 Subject of Edinboro Grad's Continued Studies
Dr. David Montefiori developing coronavirus vaccine with Duke University research group
Thanks to the work of one former Fighting Scot (and Strong Vincent grad), the world may have a fighting chance against future coronavirus pandemics. Dr. David Montefiori, a graduate of the Edinboro University biology program, is teaming with other researchers at Duke University to develop a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2.0, the culprit for the current COVID-19 pandemic) while closely monitoring its evolution.
It is the latter focus of their research that may prove most useful, as tracking mutations of SARS-CoV-2 around the world will allow for a vaccine that is more universally effective and prevent or control future outbreaks more quickly — before they metastasize into global pandemics. The baseline for vaccine development thus far has been Wuhan-1, named for the Chinese city where the first case of the novel coronavirus was recorded. However, like other viruses, coronaviruses differentiate into multiple serotypes (subspecies) over time. Dr. Montefiori and the Duke team have been cooperating closely with Los Alamos National Laboratory in Washington, D.C. to keep abreast of these changes.
Duke is one of 35 companies or academic institutions scrambling to prepare a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine — all of which are focused on mobilizing an immune response (antibody production) to the characteristic spike proteins that adorn the virus' shell. The spike protein functions like a key to gain access into the host cell, where the virus begins rapidly creating copies of itself. As of now, four vaccines have entered the animal testing phase (including one developed by the University of Pittsburgh), while one (developed by Bostonian biotech firm Moderna) is set to begin human trials soon.
Despite the record pace of vaccine development, the most optimistic estimates anticipate one being ready by the second half of 2021, at the earliest. By then, COVID-19 will have already done its worst. Through the continued efforts of Dr. Montefiori and others, hopefully next time a threat of this magnitude emerges we can truly say we've done our best.
Matt Swanseger can be reached at email@example.com