Coronavirus has killed more than 27,000 people with over 600,000 reported infections around the world. Dealing with the outbreak, governments – including the UK – have issued nationwide lockdowns to slow the spread. However, as explained by 2020 Netflix documentary ‘Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak’, scientists are all too aware of the risks posed by viruses and were working on ways to deal with them long before COVID-19 emerged.
The series initially focuses primarily on influenza as the narrator details how there are “almost endless” variations.
It chillingly predicts “the next pandemic will likely come from an animal” and “it will be a new and novel never-seen-before virus”.
These words ring true today as, despite the fact COVID-19 is not an influenza strain, it is widely believed to have originated in bats and the virus itself is completely new among humans.
Boris Johnson announced a coronavirus lockdown in the UK
Donald Trump is also dealing with coronavirus in the US
The narrator continues: “When a novel virus emerges from animals, we will not have natural immunity.
“Our systems will have no means to fight the infection off which means it has the potential for being deadly.
“That’s why there are researchers around the world committed to developing a universal vaccine that will be effective against any and all influenza viruses.”
The viewer is then introduced to Dr Jacob Glanville as he addressed the Conference for Therapeutic Discovery in New York.
Referring to influenza, the CEO of Distributed Bio said: “The problem is that the virus mutates so quickly, your immune response becomes obsolete by the next year.”
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However, Dr Glanville hopes this can be addressed and outlined his vision for an all-encompassing vaccine.
He continued: “We have created these amazing vaccine technologies and yet they don’t work on rapidly mutating viruses, like the flu for instance.
“For a while we thought we were just stuck with this but we’re making a vaccine that could treat all future versions of flu.
“Fundamentally our approach was different because we tested against future and past strains.
“Some people end up producing antibodies that hit any or all the strains of flu and they enjoy broad protection.
“But why aren’t we all protected all the time?
“Our approach was able to neutralise viruses all the way back to 1934 as well as protecting against future viral variants.”
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Dr Glanville did concede this project is very much in its embryonic phase but is optimistic of success as he highlighted the need for funding.
He added: “So far our data is very promising. We want to enable the world to have access to our vaccines, all the world.
“Right now, we are funding this. Everything up until this point has been out of our own pockets.
“Eventually we are going to need to get this vaccine into human trials and we’re not going to be able to fund that by ourselves.”
Coronavirus: Scientists have been working on a 'universal cure' for all flu
However, his team is hard at work doing everything they can to help the effort to fight COVID-19.
He recently told Fox News he is three to four weeks away from developing a treatment to “neutralise” coronavirus.
He said: "What my company is doing is adapting antibodies to recognise and neutralise the novel coronavirus, so this would [be] sort of skipping what a vaccine does.
"Instead of giving you a vaccine and waiting for it to produce an immune response, we just give you those antibodies right away.
“So, within about 20 minutes, that patient has the ability to neutralise the virus."