Only year on year vaccine investment can contain new COVID strains
Booster jabs from tweaked COVID vaccines are a must until a universal vaccine breakthrough is made, according to the World Nano Foundation (WNF).
And the not-for-profit promoter of nanotechnology research called for continued heavy investment in vaccine research.
WNF co-founder Paul Sheedy said: "Current COVID-19 vaccines are designed to protect us against emerging variants, but it's still possible for new variants to develop and bypass current vaccines, causing more deaths and lockdowns.
"Many believe the solution lies in universal vaccines able to immunize us against all strains of a disease, but this technology is not yet available.
"Think of the virus as one of those lollipop displays in shops, with the sticks coming out from the centre of the virus as lollipops in the stand. Minor mutations occur on the 'lollipop sticks' and can be targeted by current vaccine technology, but similar to how the 'flavour' of lollipops may change on a display stand, new variants of the virus will appear that current vaccines may not be able to recognize and prevent."
This model shows the outward lollipop sticks pointing out from the virus.
"A universal vaccine would instead recognise the 'lollipop stand' instead of the individual flavours. It doesn't care what the new variants or 'flavours' are or if they change, so it will arm the body to attack anything from that virus family or 'the stand' itself.
However, a universal vaccine that targets the 'stand' instead of the changing 'flavours' is very hard to develop. Vaccine development isn’t easy, especially when you consider we still haven't developed vaccines against diseases such as HIV, which has been around since the 1980s."
Sheedy believes the universal vaccine 'code' will be cracked eventually but, in the meantime, medical science must rely upon continual modification of vaccines, in the same way as influenza is controlled:
"Although we cannot yet be proactive through the application of a universal vaccine, we can plan to the best of our ability, quickly identifying or anticipating new strains and tweaking vaccines year on year to protect us continually."
Sheedy believes this strategy is more than achievable, especially after 20-21 mass vaccine rollout. The Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines took less than a year to develop and distribute after intense funding fuelled by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Investment into healthcare technology is already rising, soaring 47% to a new high of $51 billion last year, and figures show the global healthcare industry is expected to be worth over $10 trillion by 2022 on a 10-year upward trajectory.
Kojo Annan, co-founder of the Vector Innovation Fund (VIF), believes if we are to improve our healthcare systems and vaccine technology, investment on this scale must be maintained. VIF recently launched a $300 million international sub-fund for pandemic protection and future healthcare, which is part of a wider billion-dollar fund for enabling technologies for sustainability and longevity of life.
"In 30 years, our healthcare systems could be improved to an unrecognisable level compared to now, as long as we invest. Vaccines could be developed in days instead of months, human trials may no longer be required, and we could create therapies to treat and cure patients suffering from some of the world's deadliest diseases.
"Healthtech companies are already delivering some game-changing innovations, and a flood of these could come through soon if there is continued investment."
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The World Nano Foundation (WNF) is a not-for-profit membership organisation with 75,000 subscribers and users in 40 countries working on international commercialisation of nanoscale technologies in 16 industry sectors and collaborates with a wide variety of partners, maximising support and funding bringing advanced technology to the world and commerce. This is supported by many industries and academic groups developing and creating a legacy for enabling technology innovation.
Vector Innovation Fund (VIF) is a Reserved Alternative Investment Fund (RAIF) specialising in support for technology companies able to transform and protect global markets, notably in global healthcare, enabling technology, sustainability, and longevity aligned to the UN's SDG principles. VIF’s first sub-fund focuses on ‘Pandemic Protection’, and preparedness for future healthcare technology. This fund structure is domiciled in the world-renowned Luxembourg jurisdiction, and is only open to international accredited and professional investors, such as family offices, UHNW, private placement investors, pension funds, international banks, ESG investors and sovereign wealth funds. The General Partners have an excellent track record in industry, healthcare, technology and investment, with 21 exits and a total value creation of $2.4billion, including two successful IPOs.