The dream vaccine


In 2017, three leading vaccine researchers submitted a grant application with an ambitious goal: Develop a single vaccine against all beta coronaviruses—the notorious viral group then known to include the lethal agents of severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome, as well as several causes of the common cold and many bat viruses. Grant reviewers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) gave the proposal a low priority score, apparently unconvinced that the viruses pose a global threat. Now, as the world nears 3 million deaths from the latest coronavirus in the spotlight, SARS-CoV-2, NIAID and other funders have had a major change of heart. With the threat of another coronavirus pandemic now seeming very real, more than two dozen “pancoronavirus” vaccine projects are underway, using approaches ranging from novel nanocages arrayed with viral particles to cocktails of inactivated viruses.

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