As the global death toll from COVID-19 passes 1 million people, there’s an urgent need to find a vaccine. To aid in the rapid development of a vaccine the Trump Administration has funded Operation Warp Speed (OWS), an initiative designed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine more quickly than any other before. With the goal of creating it in a matter of months, instead of an average of 10 to 15 years, the medical and scientific community is relying heavily on the power of interconnected data.
“Creating a COVID-19 vaccine within the timeframe specified by OWS is one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors to date,” explained industry expert, Tim Waters of Equinix. “In order to meet this date, data sharing – the concept of interconnectivity – must be central to the development process. This allows stakeholders, researchers, and, most importantly, the general public to rest assured knowing the vaccine that’s been produced in an unusually fast timeline is safe.”
One pharmaceutical company working to produce a vaccine in the safest and fastest way possible is AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the team at the University of Oxford was already working on a vaccine for MERS — which is closely related to SARS-CoV-2 – so they were able to quickly adapt their work. By April, they had already started phase one of clinical trials. At the beginning of September, AstraZeneca and Oxford were leading the world’s efforts in vaccine development and stated that they wouldn’t be cutting corners despite the rush to produce. Days later, testing was halted due to clinical trial feedback. While testing has resumed in the U.K., development in the U.S. – the furthest along in clinical trials – remains on hold.
“The encouraging thing is that AstraZeneca did the right thing and paused the trial until they figured out what is going on,”explained a structural biologist, Pamela Bjorkman at the California Institute of Technology. “This shows the importance of completing phase three trials with a large cohort of people in the vaccinated and placebo groups and also waiting for a long enough time to figure out if there had been any dangerous side effects [based on shared data].”
Today, interconnected data is supporting the ambitious goal of producing a vaccine that’s ready for use in early 2021.Interconnected data allows researchers to analyze a potential vaccine’s effects on participants and work to mitigate any negative implications. It also allows for close collaboration and knowledge sharing between organizations. With interconnected data fueling the mission, transparency will continue to be prioritized and a safe and viable vaccine will be developed in short order, finally putting an end to today’s public health crisis.
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