Also: monoclonal antibodies, and the building blocks of drugs 

The Ars COVID-19 vaccine primer: 100-plus in the works, 8 in clinical trials 

(Beth Mole, Ars Technica5/1/20) 

The article offers a comprehensive primer of COVID-19 vaccine research, as it stands now. According to the article, there are about 102 vaccine candidates in development, and eight in human trials. They say: “Some optimistic vaccine developers say that, if all goes perfectly, we could see large-scale production and limited deployment of vaccines as early as this fall.” However, they also list the factors that could cause delays, like lack of relevant animal models and typical failures during vaccine development. 

Monoclonal Antibodies for the Coronavirus 

(Derek Lowe, Science Translational Medicine, 4/27/20) 

The author discusses monoclonal antibodies, which he believes are the most likely near-term solution for treating COVID-19. The idea is to develop treatments from the antibodies of people who have fought off COVID-19 already, a process that is faster than vaccine development. Among the interesting facts discussed in the article is that AstraZeneca is developing antibodies with Vanderbilt University – a program which is partially funded by singer Dolly Parton. 

Better understanding of nature’s nanomachines may help in design of future drugs 

(Science Daily, 4/30/20) 

The article discusses research done at McGill University on nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs), the enzymes found in some microbes that can be used to produce drugs. NRPSs take amino acids and other small building blocks to create biologically active compounds. The researchers believe that a better understanding of their mechanism of action will help future drug designers build better drugs. 

—Stories compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker