Speed Reads

Solving COVID

Pfizer launches human trials for coronavirus vaccine, aims for emergency use in September

Pfizer, in partnership with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, became the latest company to launch human trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine Monday.

If all goes well, the companies hope their COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for emergency use in September, in time for what many predict will be a period of rejuvenated viral transmission (if it subsides at all in the U.S. between now and then). The normal caveats apply here — the quest for a vaccine is moving along at a pace never before seen, which means that some essential steps may be purposefully skipped in the process, and many experts believe that getting a vaccine in even 18 months, let alone later this year, is overly optimistic.

Pfizer and some other companies are using a genetic material known as messenger RNA to develop their vaccine that could possibly train cells to create a protein the coronavirus latches onto without making a person sick. With the protein in the body, a person's immune system could then reportedly produce antibodies ready to fight off a future infection. The good news is that this technology is reportedly more stable than traditional vaccines which use weakened virus strains, and it's faster to produce, hence Pfizer's ambitious timeline. The catch is that no RNA messenger vaccine has ever reached the market before.

In other coronavirus development news, the United Arab Emirates found that a "minimally invasive" treatment in which stem cells are turned into a mist to be inhaled has resulted in "favorable" outcomes for COVID-19 patients and could hit the market in three months if trials keep going well. Israel, meanwhile, said it has isolated a key coronavirus antibody that could possibly "neutralize" the virus in a patient's body.