Harvard’s coronavirus vaccine efforts

In Dan Barouch’s lab, many researchers have not taken a day off since early January, and virtually all are working nearly seven days week to develop a vaccine that could help end the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everybody wants to contribute to this global crisis as best they can,” said Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The team hopes their work will be worth it. There is cause for optimism.

The lab developed a vaccine in collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos., the drug-making arm of Johnson & Johnson. It plans to launch clinical trials in the fall as part of a joint $1 billion collaboration agreement announced by the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson on March 30.

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And the push by Barouch’s group is far from the only one out there. There are currently more than 40 in development around the world, according to the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank in California. The approaches are varied, but all involve training the body’s immune system to recognize and remember the virus and produce antibodies to fight the disease.

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Most of the work at Harvard is in its early stages and includes a number of different vaccine methods. Barouch’s lab at Beth Israel is the first to move toward clinical trials so far.

Like everyone working on this, “We want to move as fast as we possibly can, because we think the world needs a vaccine,” said Barouch. He co-leads the vaccines working group at Harvard’s Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness and is also a steering committee member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard.

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Harvard Gazette

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