As Britain battens down the hatches, millions of us are now asking: Is there light at the end of the tunnel? The short answer is yes. How we get there is another matter.
Covid-19 is the disease, the virus itself is ‘SARS-COV2’. There are seven different coronas known to us, four cause mild colds and three are horrible – SARS, MERS and now this COV2 one.
How those of us involved in developing medical treatments wish we had a dirt cheap, home-use easy rapid test for COV2, then we could all test ourselves, take precautions and prevent a pandemic.
Professor Sir Chris Evans (pictured) OBE, DSc, FMedSci is the UK’s leading bioscience entrepreneur who specialises in developing new cancer treatments
Bioscience and pharma companies are now flat out in a race against time trying to develop and refine such tests.
Our scientific advances are such that we can now sequence the genome of a brand new virus very quickly indeed and so start developing a test to monitor its spread and apprehend the new ‘villain’ quicker than ever before.
We don’t have one for COV2 yet I’m afraid, but the current tests are accurate and getting faster by the day.
The first participant in a clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against coronavirus received an experimental dose yesterday in Seattle in the United States.
Although mortality overall may be 1% of even less (as we don’t know the extent of symptomless infections), the morality in older groups e.g. 70-90 years old could exceed 15% or far higher if our health systems and infrastructure collapse under the pressure of a surge in very ill patients.
‘People are suffering enough. Leave them all alone and work backwards, when the sun shines again, then review the state of financial affairs of individuals or businesses.’ Pictured: People wearing protective face masks in Covent Garden, London
So, isolating older populations is a must and we should have started this a month ago in Britain.
As someone who works in developing cancer medicines, I still think we need to keep in mind that 450 people die every day in this country from cancer.
But it is not all doom and gloom. Contrary to what some experts are telling us, I do not believe it will be 18-24 months before we see the first drug treatments or vaccines for COV2.
I think you will see the first of these being available to people this year. Why? There are now 67 different drugs, and combinations of drugs, and various vaccine candidates being rapidly progressed from research laboratories and animal studies into human trials.
Billions of pounds are pouring into hundreds of laboratories and companies which have promising treatments.
The first batch of ‘clinical read-outs’ from these trials will come in April and May.
Safety is a priority before you can carry out mass vaccinations but where some early candidates show patient benefit by suppressing or destroying the virus in trials, and where little or no side effects are reported, the health regulators have to make some crucial short-term decisions.
Do you immediately offer such treatments up to the high-risk populations to simply increase their chance of surviving the few days it takes for COV2 to kill them?
I certainly would. You weigh up the scientific facts in front of you and you make that decision sooner than later.
Social distancing, isolation, hand-washing and all of the other vigilant hygiene tips put out there are important. Pictured: A woman wears a mask in Leeds, West Yorkshire
This is no time for the usual paper shuffling by regulatory administrators. Decision makers will need to act fast.
So, we know the cavalry are coming. All of the brilliant advances in genomic research and drug development over the last several years will enable us to meet this COV2 challenge head on and we are doing it now in the midst of this global pandemic.
There will be some good treatments and even, possibly, some effective vaccines. But we will all have to buy ourselves time and slow down the rate of infection, its mortality rate and its overall impact before the medical cavalry ride into town.
This is why social distancing, isolation, hand-washing and all of the other vigilant hygiene tips put out there are important.
I’m fortunate to have an i-phone, i-pad and Macbook so I can do virtually anything and everything I need to do in my business and personal life remotely.
However, I’m acutely aware it is going to be a desperately difficult for those working in people-facing businesses.
I just hope the governments that run our countries have enough brains to ‘stop the clocks’ now, i.e. do not allow any banks, HMRC or lender to call in debts in 2020.
Defer taxes, rates, whatever. People are suffering enough. Leave them all alone and work backwards, when the sun shines again, then review the state of financial affairs of individuals or businesses.
We’ll all benefit from eating foods that help boost our immune systems and – look on the bright side – a glass of red wine can also help.
It increases gut biodiversity and boosts your microbiome which looks after your immune system.
I believe we will all climb out of this nightmare in the next six months and have a little time to take stock. But, as winter closes in so could COV2 again.
Worse still, COV2 could mutate (indeed it will mutate and change) but it could be a weaker version or an even more aggressive mutant that kills children as well.
So, science needs to keep up with the story here.
We will need to have brilliant surveillance out there to pick up any nasty mutants, rapidly sequence them, develop very fast testing procedures for these things and commence yet more drug developments trials and vaccine studies to eliminate the threat when it is emerging and not an epidemic, let alone a pandemic.
This will all require money – vast investment. But we need to be ready next time as there will be a next time.
I expect the world’s bioscience and pharmaceutical industries to really rise to the challenge of the next 50 years – financiers, investors and governments need to step up to the plate as well.
Finally, the number of infections and deaths in China is decreasing rapidly. Korea has shown how rapid testing can be achieved.
Countries are getting to grips with social isolation and containment. And exciting new medical treatments are coming down the track. 99% of people will not die from COV2. It’s a new flu and it’s scary but we’ll win.