The race to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus is heating up. In Cambridge, researchers at the university’s Infectious Diseases Centre say work is ‘already well under way’.
After further tests, they hope to send the vaccine soon for pre-clinical trials at Public Health England.
In the US, Novavax has begun testing a vaccine on animal models while the biotech giant Gilead says human trials for its antiviral drug, Remdesivir, have begun.
Dozens of pharmaceutical laboratories across the world are working hard to develop an effective vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus
Here in the UK, Glaxosmithkline has hooked up with China’s biopharma specialists, Clover, to help develop its protein-based vaccine – Covid-19 S-Trimer – with the aim that, if tested successfully, its Chinese partner can produce large quantities of it.
Another 30 to 40 pharma labs, including those at Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson, are also working at breakneck speed on new designs.
Some appear overly optimistic. Israeli scientists working at Migal, the Galilee Research Institute, claim they have a vaccine that could pass safety tests within three months.
These breakthroughs are great. However, even the most optimistic of scientists say it will be at least a year before a vigorously tested vaccine can be used on a mass scale – in time for the next flu season, maybe.
Until then, we will have to wait and see whether the mid-February outbreaks may have been the peak.
Much will depend now on how governments tackle the tricky issue of public health policy.
If they take the doomsday scenario of lockdowns and self-isolation, the global short-term impact will be catastrophic. If just London goes into lockdown, the UK could be hit by a £10billion loss.
The OECD’s latest warning, that the epidemic is the gravest threat to the global economy since the financial crisis, has confirmed what many already feared.
What’s more, if the virus is not contained, it predicts world GDP growth could be nearly halved to 1.5 per cent with financial markets collapsing by up to 20 per cent.
Countries such as Japan, Italy and Germany will be tipped into recession.
This epidemic is particularly devastating because the blow to confidence is hitting both supply and demand, with supply chains around the world gummed up.
You can see this from the Baltic Dry Index, one of the best measures of global activity, which looks at freight rates across the big shipping routes.
Since September, it is down by 84 per cent. After the 2008 crash, it fell 90 per cent.
Stock markets which suffered painful falls last week, did respond positively to the news that central banks promised to do what it takes to protect financial and monetary stability.
That means more interest rate cuts and other measures to ease liquidity.
Investors should stay calm, for now. The braver ones could try picking out shares in the winning pharma companies: one of the few antidotes to this terrible scourge.
The Quaker founders of Barclays would be quaking in their strait-laced boots if they could see what’s going on at their bank.
Chief executive Jes Staley is under attack again over his ties to convicted paedophile, the late Jeffrey Epstein.
Staley is being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority over the nature of his links to Epstein, a former JP Morgan client. Now Staley is under pressure from activist investor, Sherborne’s Edward Bramson, who wants him removed.
Bramson claims the board’s decision to re-elect Staley at May’s annual meeting is ‘ill-advised’.
Bramson is right. Chairman Nigel Higgins needs to stop quaking too, and step up his authority.
This could be done by announcing Staley will retire at some future date, and that succession planning is in place.
While the American has done a decent job, he has a habit of landing in hot water.
Staley was fined more than £1.1million in a peculiar attempt to unmask a whistleblower, prompting Barclays to claw back £500,000 of his bonus. The link to Epstein is one bizarre incident too many.
A sad choice
Today is D-Day for Sirius investors. The 80,000 or so small investors in the Yorkshire potash mine have to vote on whether to take the money from Anglo American or risk Sirius going bust.
Many local investors have lost life savings. It’s a sad choice, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
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