There are currently no COVID-19 vaccines and no recognized treatments, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues, with more than 200,000 cases worldwide, scientists are busy at work looking for those answers. To keep track of those developments, and to reassure the public that these efforts are underway, nonprofit Milken Institute has launched a COVID-19 treatment and vaccine tracker.
The effort comes specifically from FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute that accelerates biomedical research. FasterCures works closely with the government and regulators, including the CDC, NIH, and FDA, says executive director Esther Krofah. “This is the time when our mission really kicks into gear, because we need a vaccine or a treatment as quickly as possible for COVID-19,” she says. “[We wanted] to provide a call to action to our network and stakeholder community to make sure that not only do we understand what is in the pipeline . . . but also we could accelerate what’s most promising, because the list is quite long.”
Experts have warned that it could take 12 to 18 months to develop a coronavirus vaccine, though treatments could be discovered or developed earlier. As researchers and biotech companies work on that front, Krofah says, it’s important that they get the resources they need, “so that we’re not talking about years before the first treatment,” she says, “but rather months.”
The COVID-19 treatment and vaccine tracker is updated daily at noon EST with publicly sourced data from the World Health Organization, academic journals, and announcements from pharmaceutical and biotech companies. FasterCures is focused on tracking a few major types of information: the type of product in the works, such as antibody treatments, antivirals, cell-based therapies, and more; and what companies are doing, like Mastercard’s partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The nonprofit is also tracking the current stage of development for these treatments and vaccines, whether they are in preclinical or in clinical trials; as well as the anticipated timing, including when those phases are expected to kick off or when we can anticipate getting data. A final column in the tracker contains source information, so people can click through and read directly about a specific product or project.
“The idea here is for patients to see that there is a lot of work underway. There are a lot of researchers, thousands all over the world, racing as quickly as possible to try to get a treatment or vaccine to the market. It’s reassuring to patients to know there’s a lot behind this,” Krofah says. The fact that there is currently no known cure can be unnerving and frightening, she says, but knowing who is working on one, and how far away we are from getting access to that, is helpful to know.
“It also sets the right expectations,” she adds, “to make sure people are practicing proper preventative care and not taking risks because they think if they go to the hospital there might be something there for them.” That’s why social distancing and following CDC guidelines are so necessary. “It’s important to give the system time to get these treatments and cures.”