Speed Reads

Solving COVID

A U.K. lab has a plan to make potential coronavirus vaccine available at lowest possible price

Imperial College London, which is about to launch a combined first and second phase of coronavirus vaccine testing on June 15, is aiming to make sure its product is available at the lowest possible price in the United Kingdom and several other countries if it proves to be safe and effective, The New York Times reports.

Scientists and health experts have called for any successful vaccine to be distributed at low cost with need prioritized over profit, but since major pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology startups have so far led the development race, it's unclear whether that will happen. The vaccine Imperial College is developing is reportedly cheap and easy to manufacture, so the university is creating a "social enterprise" in partnership with the Hong Kong-based investment firm Morningside Ventures called VacEquity Global Health. The company will be for-profit, but Imperial College has promised to make the vaccine available at the lowest possible cost in the U.K. and low- and middle-income countries. It may charge more for wealthier countries like the United States or Singapore, however.

Meanwhile, scientists are reportedly close to a breakthrough when it comes to antibody therapy, according to pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The potential treatment, which involves the injection of cloned antibodies that counteract COVID-19, could reportedly prove significant for people in the early stages of infection. If the treatment winds up being successful, it will be more expensive than vaccine production, so the therapy would likely be targeted at the elderly and other vulnerable people who may struggle to develop a "good response to a vaccine." Read more at The New York Times and The Guardian.