If I Were A Rich Crazy Person I Would Massively Fund This

Unfortunately, I’m a not-rich crazy person (boldface mine):

For everything that virologists have learned about rhinoviruses — the cause of the majority of colds — they have not invented a vaccine for them.

In 2013, Moore wondered if he could make one. He consulted a rhinovirus expert for some advice. Instead, the expert told him, “Oh, there will never be a vaccine for rhinovirus — it’s just not possible.”

“I thought, ‘Well, let’s look into that,’” recalled Moore, an associate professor at Emory University and a research scholar at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Three years later, Moore and his colleagues now have a vaccine that has shown promising results in trials on macaques. The monkeys were able to produce antibodies against many types of rhinoviruses. Moore and his colleagues are now following up on those results with more research and hope to move soon to human trials….

Other research groups, based at universities and at pharmaceutical companies, are making advances with vaccines of their own. After decades of disappointment and resignation, scientists think the common cold may at last be beatable…

The last report on a human cold vaccine trial was published in 1975. Since then, there’s been nothing.

In recent years, however, some scientists have been trying to drum up interest again in a vaccine. They’ve demonstrated that the rhinovirus is not as harmless as it once seemed. “It’s getting more respect as a pathogen,” said Dr. James Gern, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine who studies colds.

Colds take an enormous economic toll on families. Between sick days and parents staying home to care for their children, colds drain an estimated $25 billion a year from workplace productivity in the United States.

Colds can also cause more physical harm than scientists previously appreciated. When most people get a cold, the rhinoviruses stay in their nose. But Gern and others have discovered that some types of rhinovirus can invade deep into the lungs. Many cases of childhood pneumonia turn out to be caused by rhinoviruses.

Rhinoviruses are especially dangerous for people who already have certain chronic disorders such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Even a mild cold can trigger runaway inflammation in their lungs. It turns out that the majority of asthma attacks are brought on by rhinoviruses.

“Rhinovirus can cause more disease in certain people, and when I say ‘certain people,’ I mean a lot of people,” said Gern.

The vaccine’s mechanism is interesting:

When Martin Moore got into the cold vaccine game, he didn’t try to find a new strategy the way the Imperial scientists did. Instead, he tried to update an approach that had been pioneered by University of Virginia scientists in the 1970s.

The Virginia team had picked out 10 different serotypes and combined them into one shot.

“It produced some antibody, but it wasn’t great,” said Bruce Hamory, one of the Virginia researchers. “If you challenged someone with a strain that wasn’t in the vaccine, there was no cross-protection.”

But Moore decided the idea was sound. The only problem was that scientists in the 1970s just didn’t have the tools to make it work. In the 21st century, those tools were now at hand.

A lot of other scientists didn’t share Moore’s optimism. “It was definitely a risk,” he said. “We broke the bank, people left the lab. You name it. But I just felt this is what I needed to do.”

To make a new vaccine, Moore needed a lot of rhinoviruses. He also needed a lot of different types of rhinoviruses. So far, scientists have identified 160 types from people with colds…

Out of his snot collection, Gern and his colleagues can isolate many different types of rhinoviruses. They can then extract the genes for those viruses and store them. When they want to study a particular type, they simply inject the genes into human cells and let them churn out new viruses. This gene-based method lets them make viruses much faster than in the 1970s, and they can be sure they’re making exactly the type they want.

For a trial vaccine, Moore decided to ramp up Hamory’s 10-type vaccine to 50. He and his colleagues packed a large number of each type of rhinovirus into a single shot.

They injected the vaccine into macaques and then later drew blood from the monkeys. When they mixed the viruses into the blood, they got a strong antibody response to 49 out of the 50 types.

Even if a vaccine didn’t protect against all rhinoviruses, I would still get it if it protected against many of them. Every year, I get hit hard for a couple of days with a damn cold. Then there are the little annoying colds that don’t really make me sick, but knock me down ten or twenty percent. I would definitely pay for a vaccine against those, or even some of those.

We really need one of those Silicon Valley types to do something useful and throw some serious money at this.

Of course, there is also that entity known as ‘the federal government.’ Well, a boy can dream, can’t he?

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One Response to If I Were A Rich Crazy Person I Would Massively Fund This

  1. Michael J Lauer says:

    I hope Martin Skreli isn’t reading this.

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